Industry organizations, nursery owners, daycares and experts have pledged to oppose any attempt by the government to relax the rules on the number of nurseries and nurseries for babies and toddlers that can care for. in early childhood institutions.
The move comes in response to news that broke over the weekend that ministers were planning to cut staff: child ratios to cut childcare costs.
A front-page exclusive appeared in The Telegraph on Saturday under the headline “Childcare staff rules relaxed to cut costs.”
The newspaper reported that “allowing caregivers to watch larger groups of children could reduce the amount families pay, ministers say as they tackle the cost of living crisis.”
The article read: “Officials are considering changing the rules so that one staff member can supervise five children under two instead of the current limit of three. Sources in the education industry have argued that allowing educators to supervise larger groups would reduce the amount parents have to pay.
Ask by Nursery world to comment on the report, the education ministry would only say that any change in ratios would be subject to consultation.
Industry organizations and others quickly opposed the plans.
Referring to the government’s previous attempt to change the ratios, the Early Years Alliance said: “We are clear: we have opposed this before and we will oppose it again.”
Managing Director Neil Leitch said he was “appalled” by the plans.
“Let’s be clear: if the government is trying to relax the ratios, it will not be because it wants to help beneficiaries or parents. It will be because ministers see it as a shortcut to addressing the child care crisis they created without having to actually invest in the early childhood sector.
“The existing adult-to-child ratios in early childhood settings are there for a reason: they protect the safety and well-being of young children and ensure they receive the best possible care and education. The fact that the government is even considering making such a change would say a lot about the low value it places on quality early childhood care and education.
“When ministers tried to make this change eight years ago, parents and providers came together to oppose it. We hope the government does not intend to make the same mistake twice.
Purnima Tanuku, Managing Director of the National Day Nurseries Association, said: “This is not the first time that easing ratios have been proposed when talking about the cost of providing high quality child care services, but we have not seen anything official in this sense. We are talking about nurseries and childcare providers which are essential to start children in their educational journey. Policy decisions affecting early learning and development must be based on evidence, not sound clips.
“Reducing staff-to-child ratios is not the answer to reducing childcare costs at a time of staff crisis and government underinvestment. We cannot solve the problems faced by the early childhood sector simply by asking staff and nurseries to do more with less.
“Government funding for child care spaces has never covered the true costs of nurseries and 95% of our members say they are underfunded. This means more costs passed on to parents to fill government deficits. This is the area on which ministers and officials should focus.
June O’Sullivan, CEO of the London Early Years Foundation, said: “Basically the government wants to ‘take it to the next level’ by cutting spending and finding ways to cut costs for voters.
“If that means increasing the adult-to-child ratios, it will undoubtedly significantly reduce the time available for staff to spend with each child.
“This is especially important for the youngest children, our small babies and our two year olds whose well-being and development are closely linked to social interaction and the formation of secure attachment relationships with adults.
“I urge our new Minister, Will Quince, to understand why thoughtful ratios are essential for the well-being of children and the ability of staff to truly support their learning and development.”
Daycares, academics and experts also took to Twitter to share their views.
Dr Nikki Fairchild said: “It was one of my first thoughts after working in a nursery. Then I thought about eating, changing, sleeping, playing, going out, protecting myself. Regardless of age, the child / adult ratio is wrong in many ways.
This is not the first time that ministers have attempted to change the rules regarding staff: child ratios in order to reduce the cost of childcare.
In 2013, the then-coalition government also attempted to lower the ratios, but was forced to back down after thousands of parents joined in the industry’s outcry against the plans.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg intervened to prevent the rule change.
What are the current numbers: child ratios?
The number of children that early childhood and child care providers can care for is regulated by the government and is defined in the EYFS.
Childminders can babysit up to six children under the age of eight, of which three can be under five and a maximum of one child under one at any time.
For early childhood providers (other than childminders):
For children under two years old
• there must be at least one staff member for every three children
- there must be at least one staff member for every four children
For children three years and older
- For children aged three and over under a registered early childhood program where a person with qualified teacher status, early childhood professional status, early childhood teacher status or other approved level 6 qualification works directly with children:
- there must be at least one staff member for every 13 children
- at least one other staff member must hold an approved level 3 diploma
- For children aged three and over at any time under a registered early childhood program when a person with qualified teacher status, early childhood professional status, teacher status early childhood or other approved Level 6 qualification does not work directly with children:
- there must be at least one staff member for every eight children
- at least one staff member must have an approved level 3 diploma
- at least half of all other staff must hold an approved level 2 qualification