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Proposed Childcare Changes
Proposed Childcare Changes

There was no way I could not blog about the proposed childcare changes which were all over the news yesterday.  The government is announcing that nurseries and childminders in England are to be allowed to look after more children per adult to help cut costs.

The costs of childcare are extortionate for parents and something needs to be done but, ‘quality’ childcare is what is paramount to most parents.  Many concerns have been raised as to whether these proposals will drive an even greater gap between good and substandard childcare.  Apparently child carers will have more academic qualifications under the new proposals but I don’t see how this will make them more able to physically look after more children.  Why the government doesn’t adopt models tried and tested in other countries (namely France and Norway) rather than guinea pig an already highly criticised and suspect plan, I don’t know.

However, there are those that think the proposals are a good idea:

Ben Black, director of My Family Care, which offers childcare support to employers, and co-founder of nanny agency Tinies

Ben Black

Childcare in the UK is very heavily subsidised, ultimately by us tax payers, in various over-complicated ways. And yet it remains expensive or unaffordable for many.

We all know that nursery staff, given the responsibilities they have and jobs they do, are under-paid. Looking at ratios, and in some cases daring to suggest that they be relaxed, isn’t only sensible; it’s essential.

The quality of nursery workers is the most important consideration for parents by a distance and there’s an obvious link between ratios, how much nursery owners can afford to pay and how many good child carers are lost to the industry every year to marginally better paying jobs. It’s a tragedy.

From my position, as a parent and a provider, giving nurseries a bit more leeway on ratios is absolutely the right approach. Ultimately that will lead to better paid jobs, better quality and more affordable childcare.

(Taken from BBC News)

But what effect could this have on children in the long term?

Richard House, Early Childhood Action Campaign founder

Dr Richard House

Dr Richard House

  • Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies, University of Winchester
  • Author of best-selling book Too Much, Too Soon? – Early Learning and the Erosion of Childhood

The first five to six years are crucial in determining children’s subsequent life chances. So why is the government proposing changes that will worsen many children’s life chances, increase inequality, and set back social mobility?

Research evidence is overwhelming that the quality of early attachment relationships is the key to effective early development – and these proposed changes in adult-child ratios will inevitably reduce the quality of those relationships.

Research also overwhelmingly indicates that introducing young children to quasi-formal academic learning too young has lifelong negative consequences – and at worst a reduced life-span – yet England already has a toxically over-early school starting age.

These proposals are wilfully ignoring all the research evidence; and with campaigning organisations (like Early Childhood Action) likely to be outraged by these proposals, the “paradigm war” in England’s nurseries looks destined to reach previously unheard-of levels.

The strength of feeling throughout the sector is such that we could even see a mass movement of “principled non-compliance” from early-years professionals, threatening to reduce the sector to anarchy and chaos – a legacy that any ambitious party-politician will surely bequeath the sector at her peril.

Many believe the new proposals will not guarantee that costs of childcare will decrease anyway which if true, could mean worse childcare for the same extortionate amount of money – or more expensive childcare for decent quality care which will of course mean mainly low to middle earners will be the ones who miss out.  Is this really the way to help mums go back to work by offering potentially poorer childcare?

What do you think of the proposals?  Do you think they will make childcare substandard?  Do you think there is a better way to make childcare more affordable?


  1. Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    “Research also overwhelmingly indicates that introducing young children to quasi-formal academic learning too young has lifelong negative consequences – and at worst a reduced life-span…”

    I haven’t noticed a dramatically reduced lifespan in France where kids can start maternelle at 2 1/2.

    Carer-child ratios in creches are not as high as in the UK, yet the babies are provided with excellent care. Or they were in the creche my boys went to, anyway. The carers were lovely motherly women.

  2. Posted January 30, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    My only argument for increasing the ratio is for instances when common sense comes into play. My daughter’s pre-school had a lovely outdoor area for the children to play, however the carers were unable to let the children play freely indoors and out because they couldn’t control the ratio of adults to children adequately, as per the rules. If these were relaxed, then there would have been more scope for learning through play at her school and not so much emphasis on formal learning. Also, if more experienced child carers were employed then they would come with the required common sense to ensure safe and healthy play. It shouldn’t matter how many children an adult has to care for, as long as she excels at her job and is capable.

  3. Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I cannot understand why this will result in better care or lower costs.

    I’ve written about it too. As a parent, I can only see this making things worse.

    More tax relief, more state funding, less bureaucracy maybe but this is not the way to solve the problem.

  4. Leoarna
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Fantastic approach to presenting both sides of the argument. As an early years inspector and mummy blogger, Dr House’s arguments win hands down….

  5. Posted January 30, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    I think sadly, people will to some extent get what they pay for which means people who earn less will have to put their children in care with the higher ratios. Hardly feels like investing in the future of our country!

  6. Posted February 1, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    I’ve written about this too and struggled to find anyone for the proposals apart from Liz Truss so well done on putting that view across!

    When the Gov talks about better standard of care they mean that nursery workers will have at least a c grade in GCSE maths and English. I struggle to link this and better care for babies. The pre-school ratio isn’t changing so we are talking about care for children under 3 years.

    Other countries have models that should be explored. If the gov really wants to make a difference better tax breaks on child care seems like a good way forward…

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  1. By Friday finds 01/02/13 | Great British Family on February 1, 2013 at 10:37 am

    [...] partly by lowering the ratio of staff to children. Many bloggers have shared their views on this. More than a mum’s post caught my eye as it presents both sides of the [...]

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