A leading charity which represents pre-schools across the UK has criticised the childcare minister for "exaggerating" claims about problems in nursery education.
The Daycare Trust Chief Executive Anand Shukla said that the comments made by Elizabeth Truss would "only confuse parents".
The mother of two said that British nurseries should adopt the French model which has a greater focus on teacher lead activities rather than free play.
According to a new report on the cost of childcare, rising nursery fees are driven by staffing costs.
The report found that at present, regulations stipulate that for children under two in nurseries there must be one member of staff for three children.
The report said:
A report has suggested that rising costs in childcare is evidence of a "market failure in our childcare system".
It said costs were high because more than 90 per cent of nursery care is provided by private and not-for-profit sectors in England.
- In the last year alone, the average nursery cost for a child aged under two has increased at an above-inflation rate of 4.2 per cent, to around £106 a week for a part-time place at 25 hours a week
- Costs for children aged over two have increased at an even faster rate of 6.6 per cent annually to around £104 a week for a part-time place
- Childcare costs for older children have soared by 9 per cent over the last year, with the typical cost of an after-school club at 15 hours a week reaching around £50
Anand Shukla, chief executive of Daycare Trust and the Family and Parenting Institute, said that a report into the cost of nursery fees has shown that "costs are increasingly difficult to manage" for parents.
New figures have shown the cost of childcare can reach as high as £42,000 a year for a full-time nursery place.
The average weekly cost of a part-time (25 hours a week) nursery placement for a child aged under two years old is:
- East of England: £106
- East Midlands: £104
- London: £133
- North East: £101
- North West: £92
- South East: £125
- South West: £113
- West Midlands: £96
- Yorkshire and Humberside: £102
Source: Daycare Trust and Family and Parenting Institute
The cost of a full-time nursery place has doubled in the last ten years, setting parents back around £11,000 a year.
A charity has warned that fees are comparable to those charged by private schools, as many parents are forced to take on a "second mortgage" to cover the costs.
A report by the Daycare Trust and the Family and Parenting Institute found that the typical cost per hour for a nursery place for a child aged under two years old has risen by more than three quarters since 2003 to £4.26.
The report argued that childcare costs are becoming increasingly difficult for families to manage, as wages fail to grow with the costs.