Nursery ratios raised 'to improve standards'

 
Nursery class The government says mandatory staff ratios are tighter in England than in much of Europe

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Nurseries and childminders in England are to be allowed to look after more children, in a package ministers say will improve quality and cut costs.

The ratio of children to carers can be raised, but only if carers' qualifications meet new standards.

Children's Minister Liz Truss said the proposals would make more childcare places available and reduce costs for parents in the "long term".

Critics warn the change in ratios could actually compromise quality of care.

They also predict the changes - which are due to come into force in the autumn - will be unpopular with parents and are unlikely to reduce the overall costs of childcare.

England's nursery ratios

  • CURRENT
  • Under one and one-year-olds - 1:3
  • Two-year-olds - 1:4
  • Three-year-olds and above - 1:8 or 1:13 (teacher-led)
  • PROPOSED
  • Under one and one-year-olds 1:4
  • Two-year-olds - 1:6
  • Three-year-olds and above - 1:8 or 1:13 (teacher-led)

Statutory ratios for carers per child vary depending on age and setting. Ratios for two-year-olds are set to rise from four children per adult to six children per adult, and for ones-and-under to rise from three children per adult to four children per adult.

Ratios for three-year-olds and over would remain at eight or 13 children per adult, depending on whether a qualified graduate was present.

Ms Truss says the changes will bring the UK in line with countries such as France and Sweden. England's higher ratios lead to higher costs for parents and lower pay for staff, she says.

Ms Truss told the BBC the proposals were about raising standards and only those nurseries that hired staff with higher qualifications would be able to take on more children.

"It will make it higher quality, more available and more affordable. It will take time to recruit new people and expand nurseries. In the long term it will be more affordable," she said.

Liz Truss: "We're raising the standards so that parents will be able to get more available nursery places."

Britain has some of the highest childcare costs in the world, with many mothers with two or more children saying it does not make financial sense to work.

An earlier report by Ms Truss suggested the average family spends 27% of their income on childcare.

Ms Truss said childcare professionals should be better qualified in the UK.

Start Quote

Research also overwhelmingly indicates that introducing young children to quasi-formal academic learning too young has lifelong negative consequences”

End Quote Richard House Early Childhood Action Campaign founder

"When parents hand their child over to the care of a childminder or nursery, they are not just entrusting them with their child's physical safety, they are also entrusting their child's brain," she said

"With this in mind, it is no longer acceptable that childcare professionals are not required to have a GCSE grade C or above in English and maths."

This will apply to new nursery staff only, however.

'Very difficult'

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said the plans to increase the ratios would undermine the quality of childcare in the UK.

Stephen Twigg: "Saying that more children will be in each setting risks undermining quality and even risks undermining safety."

"I think this is one area where we've actually got something to teach other countries.

"If you look at France, there's actually quite a big public debate about whether they've got this right. I don't think you can compare the situation with Sweden where they have very, very generous parental leave so very few young babies are in these sorts of settings."

Kent-based nursery manager Josie Lait is sceptical about the plans, saying fewer adults would jeopardise the quality of care and the safety of children.

"I feel it isn't realistic to change the ratios because the quality will go down dramatically.

"And if you have people who are better qualified, costs will go up, so how will parents benefit?

"I wouldn't want to enforce it [new ratios] myself, I wouldn't want my setting to change."

Anand Shukla, from national childcare charity Daycare Trust, said: "No matter how well qualified the members of staff, there are practical considerations when you increase the number of children that they have to look after," he said.

"For one person to look after six two-year-olds, for one person to talk to six two-year-olds, to help their language development, we think is going to be very difficult."

National Day Nurseries Association chief executive Purnima Tanuku welcomed the commitment made by the government to improve childcare but said the "quality of childcare and early education must not be sacrificed".

She said: "Many parents do not want an increase in the number of children nursery staff are allowed look after. They are worried it will have a negative impact on the individual attention and care their child receives."

Anne Longfield, chief executive of children's charity and nursery provider 4Children, said: "The welfare of the child must be our first concern throughout, but with highly qualified early-years teachers and a better inspection regime, there is an opportunity to review current arrangements and provide simpler information for parents and better incentives for providers to concentrate on what matters - children."

In Wales, the maximum number of children a child minder can care is six children under eight years of age. Of those six children, no more than three may be under five years of and of those three children, normally no more than two may be under 18 months of age.

In Welsh nurseries, there should be one adult to three children under two years, one adult to four children aged two years and one adult to eight children aged three to seven years.

International comparison

Ratios of children to childcare professionals

Source: OECD * Allows teams of carers to look after extra children as part of a group

Denmark

France

Ireland

Italy

Norway

Portugal

Sweden

UK

United States

1-year-olds

1:3.3*

1:5

1:3

1:7

1:8

1:11

1:5.5*

1:3

1:5

2-year-olds

1:3.3*

1:5

1:6

1:7

1:8

1:11

1:5.5*

1:4

1:5

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 290.

    278.yorkshireflatcap
    If these politicians are really in touch with reality, they would raise the tax free allowance from a measly £243 per month to something that is more realistic.
    ---------
    If you were in touch with reality, you would know that the tax free allowance is £675 per month.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 289.

    So what is this going to achieve?

    As far as I can tell it will mean more profit for the nurseries as they'll need fewer staff & those staff who don't lose their jobs may get a few extrra quid for looking after more children

    Hmmmm....not quite sure the Govt have really thought this one through.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 288.

    If you allow the numbers to be raised then the amount of time spent with each child will reduce = the more children the less time spent, it seems so simple yet this odious government is trying yet again to convince us differently,reduce the armed forces involve us in more conflicts the politics of disaster

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 287.

    The answer to this problem is so so simple: Increase the tax breaks for parents who pay for childcare (£243 a month is pathetic!), the money the government lose will be recovered from income taxes paid by the women who can then afford to go back to work. Increasing the ratios is a cop out and will end up with children being neglected at nursery.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 286.

    @265 Abe akingood buy
    I look forward to the day your dog goes out to work and starts paying taxes. I am sure he will contribute greatly to the infrastructure of our country that we all rely on (NHS, roads etc).

    Children are not animals and should not in anyway be compared to them, ever.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 285.

    222. Khameeleon
    6 MINUTES AGO
    Shoot me down...but I have three children and my wife gave up work to nurture and care for them, it was tough and we had to scrape by...but employing a carer/nanny is a modern day luxury. A return to traditional family values and this becomes a non issue....

    Khammeleion, you refere to childcare as a "luxury" !! what do people have children for nowadays then?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 284.

    It's well and good comparing the ratio of children with other countries,but has any comparison been done based on pay? If staff are expected to have a higher level of training,costs more to achieve,and look after a higher number of children then the expectations as to salary will also increase. In practice won't this negate any perceived cost savings by increasing number of children per person?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 283.

    There is absolutely no way that reducing staff can benefit children. It can only make things harder for staff who will be stressed trying to maintain good care with more children to care for. In a large family older children can help with little ones but in a nursery they are all little ones who need help with wet pants, cutting up meat etc. You must have enough adults to do the job.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 282.

    Childcare shouldn't be subsidised - parents should do what we did years ago - either pay up, or stay at home and look after your own children.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 281.

    Once again the lib/cons are trying to blind us with their pre school level of math. How exactly does increasing the workload equate to increasing quality. Only a Tory would try and sell such garbage.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 280.

    How many mothers were unable to go back to work after having children due to high childcare costs? This is the unintended consequence of low class sizes.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 279.

    Can't think of anything to justify her existence so let's just tinker and get it wrong at same time! By Minister Truss's theory, we can double the number of pupils in a schoolroom class and get better quality students as a result! Explain please as it's been proven that less per head gives better quality in almost any situation. P45 is on it's way!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 278.

    Again, another politician in their Ivory Tower spouting out 'what's best...' without actually finding out the true reality.
    Childcare costs are crippling households up and down the country - FACT!
    If these politicians are really in touch with reality, they would raise the tax free allowance from a measly £243 per month to something that is more realistic.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 277.

    Basically Westminister hasn't the courage to stem the flow of immigrants to manageable numbers that will allow our current standards to continue.

    Solution: Reduce the quality for all children and increase the pressure on the carers just so we don't have to talk about the diabolical state of our immigration policy.

    It beggars belief!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 276.

    1 person to look after 6 two year olds?

    I hope they've got eyes in the back of their heads....
    or plenty of restraining devices (tongue now removed from cheek) ;-)

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 275.

    It was a bit of a shock when we moved from Spain to the UK with our two year old to find out just how expensive nursery could be. When I saw how many staff members were in the room (many sitting around looking bored, or doing paperwork) I understood why.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 274.

    Nurserys take children from 3Months,How many people think that they could look after 4x3month babies at the same time? Whether you are capable or not you only have two arms.
    This is extra stress on the carers, lower standard of care and ratios will be forced by the nursery's to save on costs.
    No benefits except to the nursery owners pocket.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 273.

    As a qualified early teacher - trained & qualified in New Zealand - I have worked in early years settings in England . I was shocked by the overall standard of care. For example the staff I worked with have not had any training in child development especially the critical first three years. The government should be looking at the excellent training and settings in New Zealand & Australia.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 272.

    Simply saying "it will bring us in line with other countries is not an argument". And how does having a GCSE in english make you better qualified to look after six two year olds?

    There is no way this will bring costs, down it will just enable private childcare firms to increase costs further.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 271.

    @3.roygbiv86
    things are both better and cheaper in France

    Only because childcare is part of society, children are not percieved as the sole burden of their parents, they are the future of France and future tax payers and as such childcare is heavily subsidised. My sister paid £10/day/child there when I was asked to pay £50/day here. Guess which one of us (both teachers) had to stop working?

 

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