Childcare ratio reductions ‘a retrograde step’

Boris Johnson is mooted to be considering cutting staff to child ratios to reduce childcare costs, but experts say it could harm children and will do little to address the cause of rising costs.

children in care

Cute girls sitting on floor while kindergarten teacher reading book to other children indoors

Reports that the Government is considering plans to allow childcare providers to have fewer members of staff to help parents with childcare costs have been slammed as “ludicrous” and “retrograde” by a childcare expert.

In a statement issued today on Cabinet discussions about the cost of living crisis, Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister said that, whilst our recovery from the global pandemic was faster than anybody previously expected, continued disruptions in the global economy, including in China where widespread lockdowns are still taking place – coupled with Putin’s continued crazed malevolence in Ukraine – meant the public was facing real pressures and that the government would continue to be on their side.

“He said there was more to do, including in areas like childcare, to further ease pressures for those that need it most and to get even more people into high skilled, high-wage jobs.”

This is not the first time that the Conservatives have suggested cutting childcare ratios as a way of reducing childcare costs. Each time the attempt has been met by vociferous protests from parents and experts, who instead call for greater government investment in the sector.

Neil Leitch, chief executive at the Early Years Alliance, criticised any attempt to reduce rations. He said: “It is absolutely ludicrous to suggest that the relaxation of ratios is any kind of solution to the current cost of living crisis.

“Such a change would be a catastrophic and retrograde step for the early years sector, and it is all the more galling that this suggestion from the Prime Minister comes on the very same day that Ofsted has warned of the damaging impact the pandemic has had on young children’s learning and development. Now more than ever, many children attending early years settings need far greater individual care and attention. Relaxing ratios will achieve the exact opposite.

He added: “Such a policy would do little, if anything, to lower costs for parents. We know that the vast majority providers plan to keep their ratios as they are, regardless of any regulation changes, in order to maintain quality levels – and even if a minority did relax their ratios, any savings would be used to recoup years of historic losses, not lower fees.

“By looking at ratios as a solution to rising early years costs, the government has missed the mark and entirely misunderstood what is driving these increases. What we need isn’t deregulated, cheap childcare, but investment in affordable, quality early education. As such, we urge the prime minister to rethink this misguided approach.”

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