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Stephen Twigg, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary
Elizabeth Truss, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare
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Childcare minister, Elizabeth Truss, wants a deregulated childcare system similar to that of France which could see early years practitioners being responsible for up to eight children.
Currently in nurseries and pre-schools, there has to be one adult to three children for under two-year-olds, one adult to four children for two to three-years-olds and one adult to eight children for three to seven-year-olds.
The ratio is increased on outings and trips according to a risk assessment.
Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg believes moves to cut adult to child ratios in nurseries will be bad news for the sector.
He said: “The Children’s Minister now says they plan to cut the number of nursery staff – which experts say will threaten child safety and the quality of care for toddlers. She wants to copy France, where quality is lower than the UK, according to independent reports.”
He accused the Government of “cutting back on childcare standards and safeguards” and said changing ratios would risk “the quality of care for toddlers”.
Mr Twigg claims that the Coalition Government has created a childcare crisis.
He said: “We’ve seen 381 children’s centres shut down – despite David Cameron’s pledge to protect Sure Start nurseries before the last election.
“The average family is £511 a year worse off because of cuts to childcare support including tax credits. And childcare costs are spiralling to up to £15,000 per child.”
Mr Twigg recently hosted a summit of childcare providers to discuss the burden that working families face and the risk to the quality of childcare under Government plans.
He met with childcare experts and providers including 4Children, The Daycare Trust, The National Childminding Association and Save the Children.
Childcare minister Elizabeth Truss wants to reform the way childcare is organised and provided in order to offer parents a more flexible and affordable system. One of her solutions is to increase the child to adult ratios in nurseries with staff caring for more children as she believes they are currently too “restrictive”.
She says: “There is clearly something wrong with a system where the costs both to government and to parents are high, yet the people employed to look after and educate children are poorly paid.”
She claims these issues are resolvable and points to strong examples over the Channel about what good systems look like that provide parents with flexibility and affordability and give children excellent quality care.
Ms Truss praises France’s Écoles Maternelles that offers traditional nursery style teaching by teachers in large groups of three and four-year-olds.
She says: “They operate with fewer staff who are better qualified and better paid than their English equivalents.
“In France, 40 per cent of staff have to hold a diploma, typically awarded following a year of study after the age of 18, and they are paid over £16,000. Each staff member is responsible for up to eight toddlers. The figure in Ireland and Holland is up to six children. In England staff are typically paid £13,000 and can be responsible for no more than four toddlers.”
Ms Truss would like to see England moving “to a simpler, clearer system that prioritises quality and safety over excessive bureaucracy. We also need to think about the balance between the number and quality of staff in our system.
“It is no coincidence that we have the most restrictive adult-child ratios for young children of comparable European countries as well as the lowest staff salaries. Our ratios put a cap on the salaries staff can be paid because of onerous requirements on numbers. If staff are being paid barely more than minimum wage, nurseries struggle to retain and recruit high quality people.”
21 Aug 2013 3:39 PM
In spite of my 1st class honours degree in Early Childhood Education & Care, Award for Outstanding Achievement, Accreditation for Early Years Professional Status, numerous years of training and experience, etc., I regret that I have never developed super human qualities or grown extra arms, legs, eyes, ears etc. to be able to suitably care for children in greater ratios. Surely this idea must threaten safeguarding systems as well as EYFS principles for each unique child.