Nursery changes: what does it mean for our children?
Nurseries and carers will now be encouraged to look after more children in new government plans attempting to improve the quality of childcare and cut down costs of staff.
The ratio of one staff member to four two-year-olds will increase to six toddlers. Individual carers will also be expected to look after four babies, as opposed to three, which was the former allowance.
Under these new proposals due to come into force in autumn, new carers and nursery staff will be required to have Maths and English GCSEs above grade C.
Education Minister Elizabeth Truss believes that “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.”
Truss has been under much criticism for using dubious figures from other European childcare systems, such as the Netherlands and France, which she provides as examples to support her intentions. It has been argued that her figures do not account for assistants or additional childminders at a given time.
Some worry that although the new members of staff will supposedly be better educated, this does not indicate that they will be able to physically oversee the multiple children they are responsible for. The smaller the ratio of children per carer the more it is associated with higher quality of service. The Millennium Cohort Study found that a larger number of staff per children correlates with better-quality childcare, GCSEs or no GCSEs.
Comparisons with other EU countries show how it is not the ratio that is the underlying problem of the excessive UK childcare cost: a 2007 OECD study reports that the cost of childcare amounts to 43% of average incomes, whereas in Denmark it is 8.4%, France 14.8% and Germany 9.1%.
Members of The National Childminding Association have started a petition in protest, as they believe the quality of care could be seriously jeopardised.