Nursery staff changes to cut fees

Better-qualified nurseries and childminders will be allowed to look after more children in an attempt by the Government to cut the cost of childcare for parents. Critics warn changes to the staff to kids ratios could compromise quality and safety.

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More kids for carers under plans to cut childcare costs

Nursery staff are to be put in charge of an increased number of children under government plans to cut childcare costs.

Under new proposals, carers in England could be permitted to care for as many as six two-year-olds if they meet new qualification standards.

Critics say increased numbers of children would reduce the quality of care and could risk safety.

ITV News' Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports:

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Plan to alter child-to-carer ratios a 'recipe for disaster'

We are absolutely appalled by this fixation to alter ratios, despite the fact that those working in the sector are universally opposed to the proposal.

This as a recipe for disaster and I hope those making this decision will be as enthusiastic in answering questions from concerned parents and the media when the consequences of their actions come to the fore.

– Neil Leitch, Chief executive, Pre-school Learning Alliance

The Alliance says that a recent survey it conducted found that 94% of respondents were against changes to ratios.

A similar proportion opposed the idea in a survey of Mumsnet users.

Childcare a 'demanding job' requiring specialist training

Education minister Liz Truss has called for a shift in attitude towards seeing childcare as a profession that requires training.

She said: "It is a very demanding job that requires great and specialist expertise. I am not trained to do the job. I'm a politician, not an early educator. And I'm equally sure I could not walk into a class of 30 14-year-olds and teach them German."

French childcare system values 'lifelong education'

When I went to France I learned that excellent nursery and home-based care is widely available. By contrast, most parents in the UK talk about how they have to "juggle" their work and childcare arrangements.

The government spends as much as the French on childcare, so this is about something else ...

French nursery workers are paid similarly to primary school teachers, but unlike our comparatively well-paid primary school teachers, nursery staff here earn £6.60 an hour – barely above the minimum wage.

– blog by education minister liz truss

Mothers vent their frustration at childcare proposals

Mothers and carers have been debating the government proposals on the Mumsnet website.

They are almost unanimously opposed to the idea of raising child-to-carer ratios and demanding higher qualifications for carers.

Here is a selection of the comments:

How can this possibly improve childcare standards? Common sense says more children, less attention per child no matter how qualified the staff. The proposal also seems to think this will lower costs. It won't. Costs per child will be the same but nursery profits will increase.

I fail to see how someone can care for four young babies adequately. I do fear it will lead to accidents or even worse ... If I had a young baby now, I would be worried all the time whilst I was at work with these proposed ratios.

I didn't get C at GCSE English and I'm a nursery nurse. But there are some childcare workers out there who have difficulty talking in sentences and I worked with one who had trouble reading. You also need a level of English to write all the lovely reports and observations and to do the planning.

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Parents in UK face some of the highest childcare costs

British parents face some of the highest childcare costs in Europe, according to data from the OECD.

A comparison of childcare costs as a percentage of families' average net incomes show that:

  • Families in the UK pay a third (33%) of their net income on childcare
  • Families Sweden, Greece, Portugal and Poland all spend around 5% of net income on childcare
  • The EU average is 12%
  • The average for all OECD members is 13%

(Data compares childcare costs for families with two working parents with a child in full-time care)

Education minister: Childcare pay among lowest in EU

The education minister Liz Truss has responded to questions on Twitter saying that England pays carers some of the lowest wages in Europe, and has among the lowest qualification thresholds.

She also responded to suggestions that very young children need "love" rather than education.

OECD: UK has among lowest child-to-carer ratios

In the graph below, which is based on figures for the whole of the UK rather than England, the blue bars represent the number of children per single carer permitted.

Child-to-staff ratios in formal day-care services, average for 0-3 years olds Credit: OECD
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