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Over three quarters of working mums believe the Government’s proposals on childcare ratios will result in poorer quality care, according to a Workingmums.co.uk poll.
Some 78% of nearly 250 people polled said they thought the proposals to raise the ratio of children to childcarers would reduce the quality of childcare. Some 14% think they won’t make any difference and just 8% think they might reduce the cost of childcare.
The Government says that the ratio of children to childcarers can be raised but only if the carers’ qualifications meet new standards – the Teaching Agency is to publish details of the criteria for a new “gold standard” early-years educator A-level standard qualification.
Currently one childcarer can look after up to three children aged one and under. This would be raised to four children. Ratios for two year olds would be raised from 1:4 to 1:6 and for three and overs ratios would remain the same.
Minister for Education and Childcare Liz Truss says the plans will give childcare organisations more flexibility and allow them to exercise their professional judgement on childcare ratios.
The poll drew comments from a range of people, including childcare workers themselves. One said: “I have been a childcare worker for years, been on course after course, got NVQS 2, 3, and 4. plus lots of other qualifications linked to childcare. I cannot see how, by gaining another qualifacation, I will be able to look after another two young children and still give the same quality of care to each. Those who sit at desks devising new plans should try them out themselves because what looks good on paper doesn’t always work in practice.”
Another added: “I have worked in childcare for about 12 years and this idea is stupid. Why on earth would you put the ratios up? This is not a easy job and yes, things do need to change but this is not the way to do it. This will mean less attention on each child and their developmental needs will not be met.”
A nurse commented: “I am a nurse. I am highly qualified, with a degree, PGCE etc. The number of qualifications I have do not help when I have to deal with high volumes of patients. It is simply a case of needing more hands than I have. I think the same is applicable to childcare. I would prefer the cost of living to go down, so that I could afford to stay at home and look after my daughter.”
Another said: “I have no idea how more qualifications can make you into some sort of super-being capable of meeting the emotional needs of SIX young children. It also frightens me to imagine one adult to four kids my daughter’s age. Young children need so much attention and can get into all sorts of dangerous situations when your back is turned for a second. I agree we need affordable childcare, but I don’t think it should be at the expense of safety and children’s development. There is no way children will thrive in a setting where their basic needs are met, but nothing more due to the insane adult to child ratios that are being imposed.”
Several people agreed with some of the thrust of what the Government was proposing, particularly moves to raise childcare workers’ qualifications and attempts to address childcare costs. But they questioned how reducing ratios would improve children’s learning or reduce childcare costs.
One said: “I imagine that the increased cost of training and staff salaries will outweigh the savings due to increased ratios. If the salaries were better, more in line with teaching/nursing for example, then childcare would attract more qualified staff. Workplace nurseries must be a part of the answer.”
Another mum commented: “At least the Government are starting to think about the problems with childcare, but this won’t make daycare cost less. We need good quality affordable care options, alongside a parent being able to afford to stay at home and look after their own.”