Clegg blocks childcare ratio reforms
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has vetoed what he calls “controversial” reforms on childcare ratios.
Back in January 2013, the Department for Education (DfE) released a report that recommended an increase in childcare ratios claiming the rise in children to adult ratio would save parents money and improve childcare quality.
After re-consultation, however, Clegg claims the ratio reforms have not saved parents money or improved childcare standards.
Discussing the topic of childcare reform on LBC’s Ask Clegg radio show, Clegg stated: “What we all said as a government was, this is a proposal, it’s a controversial proposal […] and we can only decide on this when we have heard the responses of people who frankly know better than any politician.”
The deputy prime minister said that the response from professionals and parent groups was that reforms were a “bad idea”. Furthermore, the claim that reforms would reduce the weekly childcare bill – which Clegg “desperately wants to do” – is implausible as “there was no real evidence this would reduce childcare costs […] but might well drive costs up”.
Clegg’s comments on the controversial childcare reforms and his decision to veto reforms reveal ongoing tensions within the coalition government with a senior Tory source quoted in The Guardian criticising Clegg’s provocative cull and arguing that it is “not really the way to behave”.
Heading the campaign for reform, Tory Education Minister Liz Truss used French nurseries, where one adult can look after up to eight toddlers (under two years old), as a model for the controversial childcare reforms: “[France] operate with fewer staff who are better qualified and better paid than their English equivalents.”
According to Truss: “We need to move to a simpler, clearer system that prioritizes quality and safety over excessive bureaucracy. We also need to think about the balance between the number and quality of staff in our system. It is no coincidence that we have the most restrictive adult-child ratios for young children of comparable European countries as well as the lowest staff salaries.”
A DfE spokesperson told The Daily Echo: “We are reforming the childcare system so that providers have more flexibility to increase pay for better qualified workers.”
However, an online petition signed by more than 26,700 people opposed the changes. Linda Duly, of Canford Heath’s Cuddles Day Nursery, who supported the petition, told The Daily Echo: “Well it won’t make childcare cheaper because, first of all, half of my excellent staff will walk out because they know they won’t be able to do a good job by looking after more children.”
Lucy EJ Woods