The current debate relating to the government’s proposals relating to child/adult ratios in early years settings
Whilst the document More Great Childcare proposes a number of plans for the child care field, one of the most contentious issues is the ratios relating to the numbers of children who can be looked after by the adults in early years provision. The proposal, agreed by the Child Care Minister Liz Truss, states that individual staff members can increase the numbers of children they will look after. For each adult the following is being proposed: 4 children under 2 years of age (present number 3), 6 children aged from 2 years (present number 4), and 13 children aged 3 years or more (present number 8). These possible changes in ratios have brought a great deal of controversy amongst early years providers, academics and others.
The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has pointed out that “The model assumes full occupancy and full time use of places by children whereas at present, on average, they have currently a fifth or more places vacant and a majority of places that are used flexibly.” The NDNA Chief Executive, Purnima Tanuku, has suggested that the government should test ratios in ‘real-life nurseries’ before making final decisions.
The Pre-school Learning Alliance Chief Executive Neil Leitch states that in October 2012 the Alliance wrote to the Childcare Minister, presenting a survey from their members highlighting a mass rejection of any move to relax ratios.
There would also appear to be controversy regarding who the Minister consulted about this idea; and it appears that she only met representatives from Kids Unlimited. Labour has accused Liz Truss of having “favoured childcare businesses” whom she consulted rather holding than a national consultation.
The Guardian reported on 9 May 2013 that Nick Clegg had voiced his concern about the proposed ratios of childcare staff to children, stating there was a “trade off between quality and quantity”. The Shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg, said that the Government’s childcare reforms had “descended into chaos” and called for Ministers to appear before Parliament.
Finally, a Downing Street spokesman said, “We are reforming the childcare system so that providers have more flexibility when they have highly qualified staff. Ratio changes, which are not compulsory, will allow providers to have the flexibility to increase pay for better qualified workers”.
However, we have yet to discover the qualifications they refer to when mentioning “better qualified workers”.