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The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) has welcomed reports recently published by the Department for Education, examining childcare costs and systems.
Liz Bayram, joint chief executive of PACEY, says the contents of ‘A Comparison of International Childcare Systems’ and ‘The Cost of Childcare’ demonstrates why the organisation was “so concerned and lobbied so hard” against the controversial proposals to change childcare ratios, which were blocked by Nick Clegg last month.
The research for the first report – ‘A Comparison of International Childcare Systems’ – was carried out by the Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC), building on the work already completed for the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) on international comparisons between centre-based and preschool provisions in 45 countries. CREC also used the Programmed for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009 school outcomes.
The report reveals that European countries consistently show higher staff to child ratios, higher levels of regulation and relatively higher levels of training and qualifications compared to non-European countries – a pattern also found in high performing European countries in terms of school outcomes.
Significantly, the research found that the UK is “either performing at the same level or higher than the other countries in the study on structural indicators but more poorly in terms of its PISA rankings”. The report also notes that childcare in the UK has “gone through a rapid period of system development over the last 10 years”.
The second report – ‘The Cost of Childcare’ – was commissioned in response to public concern about the “apparent high costs of childcare” to British parents.
Carried out by the Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre, the research found that the UK “comparatively speaking” is a high spender on early education and childcare. The paper also reveals that there are “no comparative figures available” on how much it costs to provide childcare.
Commenting on the reports, Ms Bayram said: “PACEY welcomes the publication of two new reports commissioned by the Department for Education to examine childcare provision in the UK compared to other OECD countries.
“The reports underline why PACEY and the wider childcare sector was so concerned and lobbied so hard to get proposals around ratio changes overturned. The research found that the best performing countries have higher ratios and qualifications as well as more regulation. This backs up the calls from PACEY members for increased regulation and requirement on childcare professionals to achieve a full and relevant Level 3 qualification minimum.
“The Cost of Childcare’ report acknowledges that it is not easy to make direct comparisons between countries on the cost of childcare because they can be subsidised to the provider or directly to the families, which distorts the cost of childcare to parents figure.
“Whilst the ratio decision has been over turned, PACEY continues to be concerned about a number of other proposed childcare policies. In particular, the introduction of childminder agencies and the removal of support provided by local authorities both threatens the quality and sustainability of childcare.”