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Childcare ratios: Lib Dems to veto planned changes

(119 Posts)
SarahMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 09-May-13 08:01:37

Morning everyone,

For those of you who've been following the campaign to persuade the government to roll back on its proposed reforms to adult-child ratios for childcarers, we have good news. It was announced on Newsnight last night that Nick Clegg has told the Conservative party he will block the planned changes to ratios, which were expected to be brought in in September.

Due to opposition across the boards to the relaxation of the ratios - particularly evident in the recent webchat with Childcare Minister Liz Truss - Mumsnet gave its backing to the Pre-School Learning Alliance's Rewind on Ratios campaign, which called for the Government to scrap its plans and to undertake a full consultation with practitioners and parents on future proposals. The announcement from the Lib Dems looks like the first step in that direction.

Justine appeared on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning to explain Mumsnetters' opposition to the changes, saying: "There is a general feeling on our website that it will have a bad impact on the quality of provision. When we surveyed our members, only 5% said they would be happy to accept a relaxation of ratios, even if it meant lower costs" - which pretty much sums it up. Thanks to all of you who signed the petition: your support made a difference!


Crumblemum Thu 09-May-13 08:07:38

This is such good news. We must avoid a two tier system where only those who can afford to get to use nurseries with good ratios. And, as if savings would ever have reached parents.

Whole different conversation on why govt can't organise a fine wine party in a vineyard, but for now think this is good news.

natwebb79 Thu 09-May-13 08:16:11

Such good news. Well worth the few seconds it took to sign the petition.

MousyMouse Thu 09-May-13 08:23:36

good news.
the current ratio is good and the envy of friends in forrinland.
one friend (sadly has no other choice) has her child in a nursery were in one group are 24 children, aged 3 months to 6 years, with only 3 staff.

I like the fact that my dc get plenty of cuddles at nursery because it is possible! would be horrific for staff as well not to be able to be close to the dc all the time.

AmandinePoulain Thu 09-May-13 08:25:37

Good news, let's just hope he sticks to it and it doesn't go the way of tuition fees hmm.

TiredyCustards Thu 09-May-13 08:29:50

I'll believe it when I see it Nick!

NotTreadingGrapes Thu 09-May-13 08:40:09

Yeah, cos Nick Clegg never does a U turn does he?

The Human Horseshoe, that's our Nick.

I can also second what Mousy said. Nurseries here have 1 teacher, 25 kids aged 2-6.

LineRunner Thu 09-May-13 08:40:34

Liberal Democrat MPs and their representatives in the LGA are well aware of the Mumsnet campaign. Such influence!

Xenia Thu 09-May-13 09:00:34

Not all mumsnetters oppose increased ratios. Let the market decide. It usually knows best.We need much much mess regulation and interference and instead the government is proposing pointless nationality checks forced on landlord. It is becoming the Government of overregulation.

MadCap Thu 09-May-13 09:17:32

Excellent news.

Yeh, I caught Newsnight last night too and thought this was all very interesting. I started a thread afterwards in "In the News" at 23.05 last night as I thought we needed a thread to discuss and celebrate these encouraging developments. But no-one seems to have seen it sad

At the most extreme the government could be brought down by opposition to changes in child-care ratio's, which would be pretty big news for Mumsnet I thought ! That would be if this caused serious issues for the stability of the coalition.

As a pre-school practitioner/ nursery teacher I think our ratio's are one thing we're getting right in this country regarding the early years experience for our children. I was one of the 11,000 to sign against the proposed changes.

What Crumble said!

moogy1a Thu 09-May-13 09:46:03

Xenia Not all mumsnetters oppose increased ratios. Let the market decide. It usually knows best"

Judging from the responses to the thread I'd say 99% is pretty much all!!

Xenia Thu 09-May-13 09:49:56

I did not see that thread so you can reduce the 99% below that for a start.

GoshAnneGorilla Thu 09-May-13 09:55:41

Fantastic news!

Xenia - you only have to look at the vastly uneven standards of childcare provision in the US to see what deregulation brings.

WillSantaComeAgain Thu 09-May-13 09:58:02

The thread asking whether the changes in childcare will lower standards is a slightly different question to what moogy said (not all mumsnetters oppose increased ratios). The point of fact remains that that childcare costs are crippling in this country, so what would you suggest is done about it?

I was (am) in a real dilemna about it - from January next year, childcare costs are going to outweight one of our salaries, in effect meaning we will be paying to go to work. So which is better? DC being at home with a parent that really doesn't want to be a SAHP or DC being at a nursery where the ratios have increased?

I really don't know the answer to that - I know that standards at the nursery would be lower with higher ratios, but what if that environment is still better than the alternative?

State funded childcare isn't the answer - so solutions please???

LowLevelWhinging Thu 09-May-13 10:02:39

that is great news, but yes, I'll believe it when I see it.

Snazzynewyear Thu 09-May-13 10:16:54

A cynical person might speculate that, if the govt have decided they want to back down on this now or that there isn't time to get this particular bit of legislation through, Clegg can be 'allowed' to oppose it in the knowledge that it won't now be happening anyway, as another attempt at making him look like he actually has a backbone.

LineRunner Thu 09-May-13 10:18:58

I was on such rubbish wages when I was working, and ExH had left, and the DCs were small, that I qualified for nearly 80% childcare tax credits.

Today I would not even have that cushion.

It's the real problem with England - either be very impoverished in some way, or very rich. If you are somewhere in the middle (and female), you're fu**ed.

xenia I count you as being exceptional, and not the rule, by the way.

Limelight Thu 09-May-13 10:47:08

Good news!

HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 09-May-13 11:14:06


Yeh, I caught Newsnight last night too and thought this was all very interesting. I started a thread afterwards in "In the News" at 23.05 last night as I thought we needed a thread to discuss and celebrate these encouraging developments. But no-one seems to have seen it sad

At the most extreme the government could be brought down by opposition to changes in child-care ratio's, which would be pretty big news for Mumsnet I thought ! That would be if this caused serious issues for the stability of the coalition.

As a pre-school practitioner/ nursery teacher I think our ratio's are one thing we're getting right in this country regarding the early years experience for our children. I was one of the 11,000 to sign against the proposed changes.

Sorry your thread wasn't picked up, Juggling. But thanks so much for being so on the ball last night!

ShadeofViolet Thu 09-May-13 12:26:47

It will be great if Clegg sticks to his guns.

All it would have meant is bigger profits for childcare companies, while compromising child safety.

WouldBeHarrietVane Thu 09-May-13 12:28:21

MNHQ thank you, thank you, thank you smile saw Justine being quoted in the Guardian just now and then came here to look for the thread.

Well done all vipers for being so clear on the webchat too.

Xenia, unless I'm wrong, I remember you don't actually have a child under 5 at the moment and your children didn't use nurseries under preschool age. I don't think you would have had them in a nursery with the proposed ratios as babies, would you?

Phineyj Thu 09-May-13 12:47:13

xenia, have you heard of market failure? Childcare is a classic example.

olgaga Thu 09-May-13 12:48:38

I'm really pleased to hear this - I'm sure most parents and early years workers will be too!

That's OK Helen. Sarah's OP had a lot more useful links in anyway which I haven't got the hang of yet.
Sorry I missed Justine on The Today programme this morning. How did it go ? I wake up to Classic FM these days and save my news for later in the day (such as on Newsnight) But perhaps my post was a little late too and everyone had already turned in ?
The political situation regarding this is interesting too I think. I wonder if the coalition will last right up to the next election or if the parties are beginning to feel they need to set up their different stalls in good time for the next election ?
I hope supporting this will be good for Nick Clegg and the LibDems because I think it is the right thing to do. Quite a brave move perhaps ?

NarkyNamechanger Thu 09-May-13 12:56:52


(I'm a childminder)


olgaga Thu 09-May-13 13:21:38

Xenia do you still not appreciate that most settings are already at capacity and will simply offer the same number of places with fewer staff, for the same price - not more places at a reduced price!

The cost of premises, business rates, utilities, staffing and insurance means that many nurseries are barely profitable and many go under every year.

The number of childminders is also in decline - and those who remain won't be taking on more children and generously charging their clients less per hour and do more work for the same money!

racmun Thu 09-May-13 13:22:23

Does anyone actually believe that the changes will reduce costs? All the nurseries Round here are big business - surely they'll just take extra children in but not reduce costs for parents , they'll just make more profits.

I don't know of any nurseries who don't operate (if they can fill the spaces) at full capacity. I can't for one minute imagine 1 nursery charging £x more because they have better ratios I just don't see the savings filtering down.

Not so sure about childminders as they do seem a bit more flexible.

Surely 4 children is enough for 1 person to look after. I find 1 enough to cope with.

moogy1a Thu 09-May-13 13:54:52

CM's may be more flexible but it certainly doesn't mean we would take on more children at a reduced rate. I struggle to think of any job where you would take on more work without more pay.
It was a silly idea that was never going to reduce costs and would have led to dangerous situations.
let's hope it's ditched.

blueberryupsidedown Thu 09-May-13 13:55:09

I don't think that any childminder I know (and I am one) would agree to look after more children (a lot more work) for less money. It doesn't make sense. Who would work harder for less money?

I think that in most European countries often quoted by our wonderful conservative government, it's the fact that early years' care is subsidised by the government that drives the cost down, not the fact that there is a different ratio. The different ratio is a consequence, not a cause, of the cost being lower. The biggest factor in cost being lower in other countries is more government money going into nurseries.

Bicnod Thu 09-May-13 15:41:36

Excellent news smile

Solopower1 Thu 09-May-13 17:47:48

I feel for you, WillSanta - my daughter is going to have to pay £400 a week for her two when the little one goes to nursery. How can anyone afford that??

But other posters are right - raising the ratio would never have meant cheaper childcare for parents.

So what's to be done? I wouldn't want to pay nursery nurses or childminders a penny less for the vitally important job they do - but nor can parents pay any more. Employers aren't going to pay parents more than single people, so that just leaves ... the government. Which means higher taxes all round, doesn't it?

So - should childless people subsidise the cost of childcare? Well, if they want a healthy, happy workforce in 20 years' time (the people who are going to drive their buses and wipe their bottoms when they are old and infirm), then yes, they should, imo.

I don't really get why we agree to pay taxes to fund schools and universities but not nurseries, tbh.

I don't think there's anything more important than children - even other people's!

Togetherforquality Thu 09-May-13 17:51:38

This is really good news

Can I remind everyone that there is a website which is dedicated to providing as much information as possible about More Great Childcare and the campaign against those proposals. There are links to petitions and consultations, plus a number of blogs - including mine and one I wrote about the Newsnight programme (look for blogs by Penny Webb) which despite being a mumsnet blogger - I keep forgetting to post here (sorry)

Goldmandra Thu 09-May-13 18:21:30

So - should childless people subsidise the cost of childcare? Well, if they want a healthy, happy workforce in 20 years' time (the people who are going to drive their buses and wipe their bottoms when they are old and infirm), then yes, they should, imo.

They would also benefit from lower NHS costs and fewer people in the criminal justice system. It's about investing in our future.

The logic behind the ratio changes is appallingly flawed. The suggestion is that having more children per adult would allow nurseries to employ more highly qualified staff. If the staff are paid more how can the parents also pay less?

I also wonder how having a degree gives you more time to devote to each individual child. The higher your qualifications the more you realise how and why children need one to one interactions in order to learn and develop most effectively. We'd just end up with a population of Early Years practitioners who were very aware of what they should be doing but frustrated by a system which prevented them from doing it.

If the government really wants to improve the quality of Early Years care offered to our children they need to subsidise it effectively.

Yes, and they(we) should subsidise it Gold because many research studies have shown they'd (we'd) get the money back down the line, possibly five or six fold IIRC smile

A real win/win situation for everyone.

I wonder which of the political parties have so far picked up on that. I support the Green party for example and hope it's on their agenda.
- Something to go and find out .....

Excellent news.

When they cite other countries as having higher ratios, can they demonstrate that childcare is better?

To bring costs down for parents, the government needs to accept that it'll take more than tinkering with ratios. We need decent state subsidies/tax breaks - which is what other countries do.

And as for peopl who think that childless people shouldn't subsidise people with kids - what a narrow minded selfish view of the world.

LineRunner Thu 09-May-13 19:46:55

My grandparents are dead but I don't begrudge paying taxes so other people's grandparents can have health and social care.

The whole 'I haven't got .... [insert need or demographic category of choice]' argument is not a sustainable one.

1310 Thu 09-May-13 19:48:15

I really cannot understand why mothers do not wish to spend a few years enjoying their children. You will never get those years back. There must surely ba an alternative. Leaving your child with a stranger should never be an option. May be for those who have fantastic jobs and wish to return to work they could consider employing a live in nanny. Surely this would cost a similar amount to childcare taking up one whole salary. I suspect most working mothers in government have a more stable arrangement. I understand childcare goes beyond babies and toddlers but when children go to school they do not need one to one care so ratios of six children per adult is not unreasonable. I really do think society has to change its priorities and mindset on this issue. There is nothing wrong with going back to work if your job is important to you and you can justify leaving your baby. Most women out of choice I believe would be happier looking after their own children.

AmandinePoulain Thu 09-May-13 19:55:12

Yes 1310, there is an alternative - only I don't fancy having my home repossessed, thanks, or my children going without food or electricity hmm. I guess I could get a live in nanny but she'd have to work for a pittance and sleep in the she'd wink.

AmandinePoulain Thu 09-May-13 19:57:34

Shed dammit! It's a word, it doesn't need correcting, stupid phone blush

Badvoc Thu 09-May-13 19:59:23

Fantastic news!

Martha75 Thu 09-May-13 20:05:48

Not sure how I feel about this. Babies and very small children do need lots of attention, that is why I stayed at home to bring up my three and went without so much that people take for granted nowadays. I would respect anyone's own choice, though. That being said, a lovely friend of mine was a nursery teacher for 3-4 year olds (in a state school) and it was decreed that she and two nursery nurses should look after 52 children per day (at one time increased to 78 children per day!) in two separate sessions. It was a wonderful nursery - happy children, satisfied parents (one of them me and my child). It surely must depend on the calibre of staff employed - parents pay so much that surely salaries could be increased?

LineRunner Thu 09-May-13 20:07:29

When my husband left the house didn't magically grow a nanny room, sadly. And my wages didn't cover a nanny's salary, anyway - only daycare in a nursery.

MousyMouse Thu 09-May-13 20:09:40

with the current ratio it is not some strangers looking after your children.
it is a few key persons who get to know the children very well (and vice versa). the nursery staff is very well trained and vetted (not neccessarily the case with nannies).

LineRunner Thu 09-May-13 20:15:45

Yes Mousy and I shouldn't have said 'only' daycare in a nursery. The care was excellent and we knew the staff really well and we still have the photos and homebooks in our nice stash of memories, and I can tell you their names now off the top of my head 12 years later.

Martha75 Thu 09-May-13 20:16:06

"Surely 4 children is enough for 1 person to look after. I find 1 enough to cope with."

Racmun - probably because you are running around trying to do all the housework, washing, cooking, shopping and anything else that needs doing! Nursery nurses/teachers can concentrate solely on the children in their care.

Ahh, that's a nice thing to say LineRunner - I like the homebooks too and still have ours for DD and DS.
As an early years peep it's nice to think we might be remembered by families too smile

1310 Thu 09-May-13 20:48:45

I am not decrying anyone who chooses to work. As far as paying bills and feeding children are concerned you must be able to earn a very good wage if you can pay childcare too. Most women find it a struggle. Why work to pay childcare when a few years of your life spent with your children would solve so many problems.. Future society problems as well monetary ones. There are many women who enjoy working and will pay their whole salary to childcare and that is fine but there are also women who feel pressurised to go back to work when they do not need to with a little bit of forethought. All I am asking is that we turn this problem on its head and think about the children we bring into this world. If we have enough imagination I am sure most of us would come up with a solution that does not involve the government. Never a good outcome for something so important.

LineRunner Thu 09-May-13 20:57:23

Oh dear.

Well, my husband went off with another woman and left me and my two very young children to fend for ourselves, so I worked in a job.

No 'forethought' and 'imagination' would have helped me. It was my ExH who didn't think about the children he had brought into the world.

I am pleased to have had a good nursery available for DS.

And frankly, I wish I had kept my career up even more. It has a protective effect against twats.

AmandinePoulain Thu 09-May-13 21:07:32

Yes, I'm living the dream. I roll around in my excess cash in my ivory tower whilst I leave my baby to rot in prison I mean, nursery, just because I can hmm. Nothing to do with paying bills, or maintaining my career so that I can continue to work once both dds are in school at all.

madamginger Thu 09-May-13 21:10:56

1310 - sometimes there is no choice but to go to work. People have bills to pay.
I have 3 young children and I am more than their mother, I am also someone who has spent 10 years training to do my job before they were born. If i gave up work I would find it very hard to get back to the level I am now in a few years when they are all in school. I chose to work after my maternity leave, I love my job and i'm very good at it, why should I give that up so I can live your 1950s ideal of motherhood?
Also why should it always be the mum that stays home, why can't dad stay at home?

morethanpotatoprints Thu 09-May-13 21:17:46

I am really pleased for all those using childcare and childcare workers if this comes off.
However, please will people stop saying 99% of Mnetters, or parents are in support or signed the petition because for many of us it doesn't even apply. Yes I'm pleased but gave no support.

yoho Thu 09-May-13 21:26:05

When will people realise that good childcare is vital for the next generation and stop whingeing about the supposedly high costs. Bet you pay the cleaner or the dog walker more per hour.I was a childminder until recently(outstanding rated). My rate per hour,in a 'market'led environment was £5.35/hr which is below the minimum wage BTW. How many would work for that I wonder. Do you value your children at all?

morethanpotatoprints Thu 09-May-13 21:32:30


I don't think 1310 has a 1950's ideal of motherhood at all. I get her point entirely. You do have to have good earnings to pay for childcare and some people do prefer not to spend this money and raise their children themselves, without childcare. If all the money you earn goes to pay for childcare, how can it also pay the bills as you suggest.
The answer to your question of why can't dad stay at home, well some do and some don't want to for the same reason that some women don't want to. You chose to work after your mat leave, some don't. It's each to their own.
The problem comes when a person feels pressured into being either wohm or sahm, that was the point made by 1310.

Blueskiesandbuttercups Thu 09-May-13 22:08:52

Totally agree with 1310.

Limelight Thu 09-May-13 22:48:53

When did this become a discussion about whether SAH or WOH is 'better'. Surely the point is that the financial and practical situations of individual families are complex and massively varied and society should respond to this.

Families who need to use childcare because of the reality of their individual situation should be able to access affordable, high quality options. And yes the EY workforce should have status and should be paid a wage which reflects that status.

The bottom line is that childcare is more affordable in parts of Europe because of higher income tax, capped childcare costs, and more generous parental leave entitlement (for both parents). And the absence of a long-hours culture has an impact too.

Liz Truss is a fool. She's taken one possible aspect of reforming childcare and has tried to turn it into the solution for everything - quality, affordability, the lot. Fortunately parents and childcare providers aren't that stupid. Ultimately she's put her policy out to consultation and parents / the sector have said no. But she's tried to push it all through anyway. Who does she think she is? Good on Nick Clegg for pointing that out!

And just to be clear. I work because my family can't afford for me not to AND because my career is important to me. Annual childcare costs equate to just over half of my salary and that's because I rely on a network of friends and neighbours to cover part of it.

It's never as simple as this woman wants to work but can't or this woman doesn't want to work but can't. The reality of working life isn't that clear cut for anyone is it? Some weeks I'd rather live in splendid isolation, be with my kids full time, and grow my own veg. Other weeks I love and am focused on my career. It's undoubtedly the same for all parents, for all employed people in fact. Frankly I suspect there are weeks when my kids wish they were with me and their Dad all day, and others when they're quite glad to see the back of us.

Variety is the spice of life and all that!

morethanpotatoprints Thu 09-May-13 23:18:03

It isn't a discussion about work choices, at least as far as most are concerned smile
I think most dc attend pre school which is usually an extension of nursery

Goldmandra Thu 09-May-13 23:43:22

I think there is an argument for supporting mothers who want to care for their children themselves. I am a childminder but I agree that, in most cases, small children are best off with their parents.

Therefore the best system would support women in making the choice to stay at home with their children up to school age alongside subsidising childcare costs while improving training and qualifications.

Having watched Newsnight this evening it is clear that the Conservatives are totally missing the point of a consultation process. Nick Clegg agreed with the idea of taking the reforms to consultation, he has listened to the results of the consultation and responded accordingly. The Tories thought it was a done deal and clearly wanted to railroad the reforms through regardless of the consultation results.

Limelight Fri 10-May-13 00:04:03

I agree entirely with the second half of your post Gold, and partly with the first. I agree that staying at home is a valid choice and women should be supported in that (15 hrs entitlement and CB partly did that although I am open to the idea that this didn't go far enough).

I am however resistant to a one size fits all approach - this is what happened in the old days and it didn't work then. It is 'better' for Mums (only Mums?) to stay at home until kids are at school age. I suspect it's not better for all - an unhappy Mum who wants and needs the stimulus of a working life outside of parenting isn't necessarily going to be best for that child.

It also doesn't take into account the complexities of making this real. How do you legislate for the practical realities of a women being away from her career for five years (or more of you have more than one child)? Who pays for the training? How do you keep those jobs open? How do you make sure that that women is given the same opportunities as those who haven't had children? I am uncomfortable with the idea that one approach to child rearing is pushed front and centre and held up as the ideal.

I speak as the daughter of someone who gave up her job for 10 years to look after her DC because it was what happened in those days. My DB and I undoubtedly benefited in many ways from having our Mum around. But we also witnessed and lived through our Mum's nervous breakdown which she openly attributes to her not having the stimulus of the career which she loved and worked so hard for.

I think parents who stay at home should be supported and applauded. I think parents who go out to work should be supported and applauded too. On the whole families make these decisions for good and well thought out reasons which are pertinent to them. The challenge for government is to acknowledge and respond to those choices fairly.

domesticslattern Fri 10-May-13 00:08:56

I was talking a while back with someone who was going on to a meeting with Liz Truss (not on childcare btw but another part of her portfolio). I jokingly said, ooh tell her from me that her proposed childcare ratios are barmy, and she said "erm, domesticslattern, it is not easy to argue with Liz Truss".
Well, that kind of sums it up doesn't it? Liz Truss goes out to "consultation" but then doesn't want to be argued with. As others say, the Tories clearly thought it was a done deal to be pushed througg regardless.
DD2's nursery, which is a bit of a zoo at the best of times, have promised parents that they won't raise ratios, thank god. I see enough toddlers there crying or fighting without staff intervention that I really shudder to think what raised ratios would look like in reality.

HarrySnotter Fri 10-May-13 07:09:26

As a nursery nurse I really hope Clegg doesn't do an about turn on this one. I work in a private nursery with two year old 1:4 and I want it to stay that way. I love my job and I'm good at it. I want to be able to actually DO my job properly and that would be extremely difficult with another two children in the mix, it works well as it is in my setting.

Blueskiesandbuttercups Fri 10-May-13 07:13:48

This couldn't give a shit because it doesn't have an impact on our kids approach from the Tories makes me so angry.

I couldn't believe Truss's attitude in Questions yesterday.

I am a SAHM but deeply care about children in childcare.

I'm also beyond livid towards the Condems attitude towards SAHP,the belittling,the they don't want to get on view and the taking away of choice by pushing parents who simply want a short career break for the good of their children into work.

We know what is best for our children.Those who use childcare want lower ratios and those who stay at home do it for the benefit of their children. Neither should be bullied by a government on such an important issue.

Goldmandra Fri 10-May-13 07:51:28

I am however resistant to a one size fits all approach - this is what happened in the old days and it didn't work then.

No. You are quite right. I guess what I meant was that most small children would be better off at hope with a parent who wants to be there looking after them.

That should be available to those for whom it would work. There would still be an enormous number of families for whom childcare is the right way to go and they should have access to good quality, affordable childcare which can only be provided if the government takes the long term view and provides sufficient subsidy.

It's hard for them to take that view while they know that other parties could reap the benefits but that's the system we have.

The vast majority of parents and Early Years practitioners can see the damage these reforms could do and I'm glad that someone has listened to their protestations.

I just hope he has the power and the balls to stand his ground. Time will tell.

Limelight Fri 10-May-13 08:37:28

Very useful fact check of the proposals. Basically they don't stack up.

timetogrowup Fri 10-May-13 08:44:17

Putting more children per adult is a BIG mistake. You only have two arms, one lap, one pair of eyes not matter how many certificates you've got. I really think childcare is the ideal job for kind caring people who may not have the aptitude for passing tests or anything academic. What will happen to these often young workers otherwise?

Like nursing I think we need compassion and caring people - not degrees - but we do need a "matron" figure, or nursery leader who can oversee proper hygiene, records, forms etc are all complied with.

I hope Nick Clegg sticks to his guns.

olgaga Fri 10-May-13 09:18:44

Goldmandra I am a childminder but I agree that, in most cases, small children are best off with their parents.

I have a friend who is a childminder and through her I know many of the CMs in our area.

They all agree with you!

Where we used to live I was friendly with an EY qualified nursery worker whose eldest was in my DDs class. She started back at work in a local nursery part time when her youngest started school.

She also agreed with you!

I'm sure they wouldn't say that to their clients though grin

SouthernPolish Fri 10-May-13 09:43:25

Yes it's good news, BUT Childminder Agencies are also potentially very damaging. Quality will drop, childcare will NOT be cheaper and many Childminders will leave/give up. A two-tier system will emerge. Not enough focus currently on this issue. As a Childminder I will simply ignore increased ratios - in fact, it will be one of my USPs. Agencies are far more scary, in my opinion.

jellybeans Fri 10-May-13 09:48:32

'I think there is an argument for supporting mothers who want to care for their children themselves. Therefore the best system would support women in making the choice to stay at home with their children up to school age alongside subsidising childcare costs while improving training and qualifications.'

Good points. I would prefer upping CB so that parents can choose whether to use the money to offset childcare costs or help them SAH. The Gov won't do this though as they know many many more mums/dads will chose to SAH. They actually don't want us to have a choice unless it is their choice.

I think higher ratios are a bad idea on grounds of child safety and developmental issues. I also highly doubt that private nurseries will pass on higher profits to nursery staff. Look at what happens in private older people's homes! Those at the top are loaded while carers doing the actual work are on minimum wage. In addition it often seems like a conveyor belt as they are at the end of the day there to make money ahead of providing a service.

BobblyGussets Fri 10-May-13 09:59:22

I am so grateful for the child care my DS's had. I used a private, family run nursery for up to three days a week (they even set up a pre-school, which meant DS1 was able to continue there until school). When DS1 was 5, I had DS 2 and after a while, he went to the same nursery. I can't tell you how lovely and reassuring it was to have all the same staff there, who were there went DS1 was there. They were delighted to have DS1's little brother.
Money couldn't pay for that as far as I am concerned. Reduce ratios and you'll get a higher staff ratio when those lovely childcare workers burn out and leave because they have no job satisfaction. Child care workers obiviously don't do the job for the money, because it certainly doesn't pay big bucks and it's not easy. They do the job because they love children and being able to care for them. They worn't be able to enjoy the job if they can't care properly for a big group. It would be horrible for all concerned; the children, the workers and the parents who have to leave thm like that.

BobblyGussets Fri 10-May-13 10:00:04

Apologies for the grocer's apostrophe, got carried away.

catinhat Fri 10-May-13 10:04:41

The Times made such a silly statement today...

'it depends on what childcare is for...if it's for mums to go to work, then high quality childcare is less important but if childcare if for education, then it is'

I find this statement odd on two counts.

With a baby, you are looking for high quality, but to my mind that means small ratios and lots of cuddles.

Perhaps a two/three year old needs a fully qualified nursery teacher but again, I'm looking for kind souls who love children and refer to a curriculum to give them ideas of stuff to do.

As for the education stuff; babies are the fastest learners and they learn from interaction and cuddling, not from clever graduates!

Limelight Fri 10-May-13 10:12:12

Wow that is a silly statement from the Times!

I don't get why people don't understand that whoever looks after a baby inherently offers an educational experience. A 1 year old (or for that matter a 2 or 3 year old) does not learn by sitting at a table doing worksheets. S/he learns by talking, smiling, watching, moving, trying things out, working out that things go wrong sometimes. Whoever looks after a baby is educating them whether it's a parent, a childminder, a nursery, or a pre-school.

Why is it so difficult to grasp that child care is education? Every waking minute of a baby / young child's life is education.

olgaga Fri 10-May-13 10:30:20

That is a completely absurd statement from the Times.

The notion that the quality of care a young child receives is less important than pre-school education is just so wrong on every level.

High quality childcare for babies and young children - stability, security, communication, story reading, stimulation, creativity, motor skills, learning through play, toilet training - this is what high quality childcare delivers because it is vital for their development in those first crucial years.

Without that, how can they go on to benefit from education?

Tanith Fri 10-May-13 10:55:19

Childminder agencies are simply a means of passing the costs of support and training onto the parents and allowing big business entrepreneurs to rake in the profits.
Currently, it's the local authorities that provide this support, for better or worse.
Agencies don't work well: in Holland, they led to higher costs and lower standards. Again, it's been pointed out repeatedly to Liz Truss and she's ignored it.

The childcare proposals she's come up with are the result of lobbying from the big chain nurseries. They are looking to their profits.
It suits them very well if half the competition goes out of business - that's why they wanted the higher ratios: so they could take on the extra demand and then increase fees because there would be no alternative

I am very disappointed in the reaction from some quarters regarding qualifications and education, especially when the evidence is that better qualified carers are beneficial.

Childcare is not ideally suited to non-academic people. It's insulting to imply this: insulting to the many childcarers who do have higher qualifications, even degrees, and to parents who stay at home. Why should young children be given the lowest educated carers during the most important years of their development?
Academic ability doesn't mean that childcarers are any less able to offer love and care to their charges. Many Europeans would be amazed at such a ridiculous stereotype!

olgaga Fri 10-May-13 11:10:03

Tanith I think the problem is that no-one is going to get an expensive university education with a view to earning little more than the minimum wage in EY.

I know plenty of SAHMs and CMs with degrees and more who work in childcare, only because it allows them to earn at home or flexibly within EY settings while their children are young.

It's a shame that more isn't done to retain them in the EY sector, but most will drift away when they can earn more through teaching, retraining, or resuming a former career when their children are older - even if they go back in at a lower level.

But of course, if we paid EY workers a salary commensurate with their training, skills and experience that would push the cost of childcare even higher!

Also, this article points out that researchers say that, as far as children under three are concerned, having graduate-level carers will not undo the damaging effects of having more children for each adult.

For three to five-year-olds, however, the picture is different. Studies show that if early-years carers have better qualifications and the number of children per adult rises, the quality of the care will stay the same, rather than go down. It's hardly a ringing endorsement for the reforms.

chedges Fri 10-May-13 11:24:41

Wow I am really surprised by this thread.

It would be lovely if we live in an era where cuts didn't have to be made across the board, there have been cuts in pretty much every other sector, and cost cutting in childcare is inevitable. Is not ideal by any means but we can't all campaign and protest about cuts and cost saving that needs to be done. It's no different to running a house- if things arent affordable then you have to make do. Childcare is already subsidised by the government with free nursery places. I think many mums would prefer to have a slightly different ratio than lose their free hours?

I think we are extradionarily luckily to live in this country, no it isn't the best but its near the top! Countries like Greece and Spain have youth umeployment of over 50%!! Imagine that!

Why can't we all support this country out of this recession rather than fighting against cuts that are very unfortunately necessary and simply a reduction of generous schemes we have all become accustomed to taking.

Xenia Fri 10-May-13 11:43:21

Well said chedges. Not all mumsnetters by any means are against the new ratios. If you employ nannies as I have done there is no such petty minded Government interference and box ticking and we get better people than in the regulated child minder sector which just proves the state interference as ever is wrong and free markets work best.

Pippenguin99 Fri 10-May-13 11:55:14


Very interesting thread, and I'm so pleased (and relieved) that maybe the govt "reforms" won't come in now. I'm a mother of two (both at school now ) and was a childminder for four years until recently - having had a good career before that, so I've really been on both sides of the fence and experienced all kinds of childcare. I absolutely agree that having the highest childcare costs in the world is unfair on parents, but I'd also like to mention there is an increasing scientific body of research proving (via brain scans, chemical tongue swabs measuring cortisol levels etc) that the under threes really need very low ratios, perferably more like one-to-one or two-to-one to get the emotional and intellectual inputs they need - this literally causes chemical pathways in the brain to grow. For that reason I'm slightly against under-threes spending many hours a week in nurseries, even good ones (again research shows these children are more likely to have behavioural problems or be more aggresive in the future). Statistically it's also true that it's the middle classes who are more likely to push their very young children out to nurseries - probably believing them to be more educational, but perhaps also part of the whole middle/upper class social values of trying to create more independant, self reliant kids - however, I'm going to stick my neck out here and say from what I've seen I think that's more often a rationalisation as middle class parents seem less good at providing unconditional emotional empathy to their kids.

But it's all about a balance, and what's right for individual families - sorry to keep going on about scientific studies, but it's also been proven that children do better in external childcare if their parents suffer from depression, basically kids need to have their needs fulfilled and it's about who is best placed to do that - mums (or dads) who really don't want to be stuck at home are probably best employing good quaility external childcare rather than forcing themselves to stay at home, their kids will pick up on their resentment.

In terms of costs, I feel the only solution is to have some state funding - as mumsnetters have said, you simply can't have well-qualified staff (which is important - there's a lot more to child development than meets the eye) and lower costs and ratios. I think the current drive to make the rich pay the taxes they owe is great - even without raising taxes, surely if a lot of effort was put in to combat tax avoidance, this might raise revenue which could hardly be better used then subsidising early years care. Govt subsidises state education and elderly care, so why not early years care? I really hope as time goes on, people will increasingly join the dots and realise that so many of our social ills arise from the results of bad childhoods - for example over 80% of prisoners come from very broken families. Lets ditch the blame and focus on breaking the cycle of early bad experiences children have that so often cause so much pain for them as adults and indeed negative social consequences, whether they become immoral bankers or petty criminals in the future. Big statements I know - sorry to go on, I'll get off my soapbox now! I like most of what Oliver James says on these issues, please don't think he's about saying mums should stay at home because he really isn't. Also, read "Why Love Matters", best parenting book I ever read as it's all about the neuroscience, which is fascinating, and revolutionary I think.

Sorry, hope I haven't bored everyone silly! I just feel really strongly about these issues.

Xenia Fri 10-May-13 12:10:12

Ooh good a class war on the thread. What fun. Well if the working classes are so brilliant at childcare how come their children do so much worse than middle class children on almost every score.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 10-May-13 12:23:11


Please define better and can we have some examples on the score you mention.
You do have an over inflated ego. As I've said before people who put others down to make themselves look good have some serious confidence problems

WouldBeHarrietVane Fri 10-May-13 13:19:04

Except happiness, Xenia. Various studies have shown their children are much happier.

racmun Fri 10-May-13 13:24:33

God this thread has gone off on a bit of a tangent.

Fundamentally childcare is expensive, changing the ratio's isn't going to reduce the costs for the end user it will simply increase profits for the childcare provider as they are businesses. The only way to ensure cost savings are passed on would be to introduce state run nurseries which run at cost and not for profit.

As for subsidising childcare, we already get 15 hours a week from age 3 and some children get it from 2. Is it really realistic to expect even more subsidy when there is no more money and the country is virtually broke. We've just lost our AAA rating.

Choosing to have children is expensive and IMO you just have to suck it up for the first few years they go to school for years.........

Of course they need to crack down on tax avoidance but that doesn't lead to automatically subsidising childcare. The money would be better spent paying off the trillions of debt the country owes

morethanpotatoprints Fri 10-May-13 13:29:07


Are you suggesting that taxpayers fund childcare then? So how is that fair Also why do you presume that sorting out the ills of society can be done through childcare. My dc have/are turning out well and yet have never stepped into a childcare facility in their life. One did pre school for a short while.

blondieminx Fri 10-May-13 13:32:17

thanks MNHQ for all that you have done on this issue smile. Will try and catch Justine's interview on Today on iPlayer - what time was it on, please?

If anyone's interested here are the letters between Clegg and Truss, leaked to the BBC.

I work partly to pay the bills and partly to ensure that if I was ever left in the lurch like countless women are around the country (and indeed on this thread) by feckless arsewipes who abandon their kids and their responsibility for their upkeep, ...then I would have a better chance of keeping the roof over our heads and us all fed!

FGS please don't let this thread degenerate into infighting between us all instead of campaigning together about what is important here - safe, caring and affordable childcare available for those parents who need it (for whatever reason - work/study/the ability to spend a morning in peace just once a week!).

Xenia Fri 10-May-13 13:35:17

Don't agree. Indeed it is the private sector schools who provide happiness lessons (Wellington) and if you look at the misery credit crunch threads on mumsnet I think it's fairly clear that you can be poor and miserable and if women earn a lot they can also be happy.

Plenty of working women who are middle class use nannies not just nurseries and nannies are cheaper if you have 3+ children anyway. The idea that children do better if mummy is at home is just not proven at all. It is a sexist myth to ensure women are never up to much and do not earn much and remain due to misplaced guilt 24/7 with their babies until they are 4.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 10-May-13 13:46:53


Exactly the word is "can" not definitely.

Yes women can earn and be happy, they can also earn and be miserable. You can be poor and miserable and poor and happy like me grin. Not everybody sees success, happiness and fulfilment in terms of £ xenia.

racmun Fri 10-May-13 13:52:10

Some women (myself included) actually enjoy looking after their own children. Shock horror not through guilt or due to believing an urban myth.
I've got a degree, i'm middle class and was/am a solicitor.
Just because I'm currently not working and choose to be a SAHM doesn't mean that I'm miserable or believing a myth. For me enjoying quality time with my ds everyday far outweighs any satisfaction I would get pushing a pile of files round a desk!!
It's personal choice atbh I don't actually give a shit what other people want to do for their children. I do what i feel is right for our ds but I would never castigate another parent for making another choice.

With regard to money = happiness. I don't think it's that simplistic. Choices = happiness. Money can mean you have lots more choices so can in that way make you happier but it's not a guarantee.

Xenia Fri 10-May-13 14:00:51

It was only the suggestion in a post above that it was a class issue and the working classes were better as parents that seemed interesting. People have argued to death the issue of how beneficial it is for children to have full time working parents.

On the thread issue is it about libertarians and British freedom v interfering meddling socialist control. These are massive and important issues. The left likes to walk around with its ridiculous rule book and checklist making jobsworths of us all. The rights tears up the rule books and lets common sense prevail. If you think leaving your baby with 15 others in a dirty back room you need your head examining and would not do it. If it is forbidden you can probably still find someone to do it so the rules themselves are pretty pointless. If you find a loving 18 year old who is great with babies and never passed an exam in her life you may well want her to help care for your child or you might want a norland trained nanny or ex nurse - let the parents decide amnd the state budge out of all this.

WouldBeHarrietVane Fri 10-May-13 14:08:53

Very nice to see the vast majority consensus on this thread that ratios shouldn't be increased!

I love looking after my own dc, which is why I work pt.

So happy this daft policy might not go ahead smile

Pippenguin99 Fri 10-May-13 14:09:45

Yes, lets stay on track and agree that (most of us anyway) feel that Mumsnet and indeed we mumsnetters have done a good job in getting the govt to rethink it's plans.

Morethan pot - I just feel that childcare is so expensive in this country it's a bit unfair on parents, I'm not suggesting it should be fully funded just a bit more so than at present as I certainly know people who are considering not having children at all/not more than one due to cost which seems a bit sad. Yes, this country is in a recession and I agree cuts have to be made, but I feel childcare is a bad place to do so, given the future consequences for society (and those children themselves) - I just wonder if tax was collected properly how much revenue would be generated.

Also what I meant re: ills of society - basically it doesn't matter who by or where children are looked after really as long as their needs are met - so it's not a question of childcare vs home parenting at all, just looking at what is best for that child, which will be different for all families. People get emotional about the working parents vs SAHP isue, but really I think it's missing the point - as I said, it's about what's best for individual children and families.

Hope that makes sense - let me know if not!

WouldBeHarrietVane Fri 10-May-13 14:12:12

Well said Pip!

catinhat said "babies are the fastest learners and they learn from interaction and cuddles, not from clever graduates"
Only clever graduates, who've thought carefully about how to interact with children, can do both at least as well. They're not intrinsically any less cuddly either, even if they do know some long words !

morethanpotatoprints Fri 10-May-13 14:25:03


Its amazing how people feel the need to justify their own choices and even go as far as to say their choice is better.

People have argued to death the issue of how beneficial it is for children to have full time working parents
I would argue that so is having one working parent.

olgaga Fri 10-May-13 15:05:07

Excellent post Pip.

Xenia Fri 10-May-13 15:29:41

Some choices are better than others. There are objective rights and wrongs in this world. Not everything is relative.

The left likes rules. The right likes freedoms.

Mumsnet tends to support fairly left wing interventionist policies as they sit well with low earning women adn will be popular on the site - and of courese that is crucial. You cannot support causes that puts your readers off - although in this case they are clearly happy to alienate Xenia (I am weeping into my pillow) and I am against Clegg on this.
It would be similar with my stance on lowering the age of consent to 14 - they would be fools to support it as most mothers aer against. Same with laws against particular clothes for children - most posters would want those. Same with internet porn. However there are loads of libertarian mothers who believe it or not do not want a whole load of new things banned and want people instead to exercise choice.. mind you I would support them in a campaign to outlaw the housewife.

WouldBeHarrietVane Fri 10-May-13 15:39:16

What a muddled post, Xenia!

You don't want to use nurseries yourself, but you don't want the state to prevent leas privileges children from being given a very poor childcare experience.

AmandinePoulain Fri 10-May-13 15:56:30

So Xenia you support choice...yet you want to 'ban' housewives? confused

And I can't be the only one to find the idea of 'happiness' classes for schoolchildren a little sad sad.

WouldBeHarrietVane Fri 10-May-13 16:01:11

Xenia, if you put as much effort into listening to others as you do into posting your own views, you would understand why mothers from all backgrounds have rejected these proposals.

This is not some theoretical debate on FWR. With this campaign MNHQ can help protect real children from potentially worse early years outcomes.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 10-May-13 16:17:31


"left like rules and right like freedom". What utter tosh.
Right wing are typically rich meaning unless they inherited a whole heap of money, they worked hard to earn all their money. This more often than not involves following many rules, policies, procedures, jumping through hoops and giving a pound of flesh. Hardly freedom.
How would you outlaw housewives, a group of people who existed in the 1950's. Do you mean you'd force women to work rather than raise their children, as some sahm's aren't married

Goldmandra Fri 10-May-13 16:27:52

Only clever graduates, who've thought carefully about how to interact with children, can do both at least as well. They're not intrinsically any less cuddly either, even if they do know some long words !

Under the proposed ratios these clever graduates would have more children to care for. The may understand better how the cuddles and interaction support the babies but they won't have the extra eyes, arms and laps needed to offer them.

WouldBeHarrietVane Fri 10-May-13 16:29:25

I have postgrad level qualifications and would struggle to care for 4 under 1 as per the suggestions. Looking after 1 at that age is hard enough.

BTW my "only" there, regarding the clever graduates, should be read more as "but" just to be clearer.
I know people who work with young children from all sorts of backgrounds can provide excellent care and early years education, which I agree are inextricably linked things anyway.
It's just a little annoying when people seem to think that any training you've done in this field might make you a worse practitioner rather than a better one ! Being reflective as well as practical is usually a good thing.

insancerre Fri 10-May-13 16:47:08

Completely agree goldmandra
As an extremely experienced early years practitioner with over 20 years experience and a degree and a post-grad qualification meaning I am an Early Years Professional, I am still waiting for my extra set of arms and eyes to be delivered. I must have missed them at my graduation.

Would be nice though insancerre to have such experience and skills recognised through better pay and clearer recognition of training and qualifications gained ? But, probably like you, I don't see these proposals really delivering in these areas.
Cutting ratio's will not bring this about, it needs greater (returnable) investment from the government/society.

Solopower1 Sat 11-May-13 12:09:00

Excellent posts, Pip!

TiredFeet Sat 11-May-13 13:43:05

I think it is good news. the children who would suffer would be the ones' in nurseries that don't care and would use this to cut costs. the good nurseries would keep prices high and keep ratios high, I know I am prepared to sacrifice most things to ensure ds has decent childcare at whatever cost. but some parents don't have that choice so it would be the poorest children that lose out.

TiredFeet Sat 11-May-13 13:44:49

I am less concerned about the pre-school age ratios, but tiny children / toddlers mainly need lots of cuddles and attention. ds gets this in heaps at the minute but his nursery's ratio's are better than the required anyway. I fail to see how tinies could get the care they need on higher ratios, however well qualified the staff

Cloverer Sat 11-May-13 13:47:07

Increasing ratios is not going to cut costs, isn't that the biggest flaw in the government's proposals? That seems to be the main thing they are trying to achieve (lower childcare costs for consumers) and they are completely failing.

That's even before we get into the issues of qualifications and pay for workers, which of course these proposals aren't tackling either.

WouldBeHarrietVane Sat 11-May-13 14:09:41

I think tired meant weak nurseries will use the reforms to reduce staff and therefore their wages bill and to up profits.

Goldmandra Sat 11-May-13 16:15:23

What a lot of parents don't realise is that the hourly rate paid to settings to cover the 15 hours free for pre-schoolers is so low as to be almost unmanageable for some and it has put others out of business.

The worry is that they will reduce it further, justifying it by saying that each higher ratios will mean lower costs. That will mean that the higher rations are effectively no longer voluntary.

So the only body whose costs will be reduced is the govt.

Tanith Sat 11-May-13 16:52:28

None of it will reduce costs for parents!
Ratios are just a part of the proposals that Liz Truss has come up with. Welcome, but a bit of a damp squib so far as making a difference goes.

Nick Clegg is not listening, either. The most objections received on the consultation were about the childminder agencies: childminders do not want them and they will almost certainly increase costs for parents, who will be charged as they are for Sitters, and nanny agencies.

On Newsnight, the LD representative said they are still in favour of agencies. WHY??

Scrapping the ratios proposal is just an appeasement. Costs are high because our running costs are high. We've already had to cope with cuts to support and training budgets.
Much lower, and we'll be paying you to look after your children!

Here's a nice, simple cheap proposal: instead of setting up agencies to help childminders cope with all that extra administration and paperwork, why not simply scrap most of the paperwork, most of which is unnecessary?

Or do you think that's too simple for them?

WouldBeHarrietVane Sat 11-May-13 18:02:49

Couldn't agree more Tanith - I look after my own dc without reams of paperwork. Let's abolish it all!

TiredFeet Sat 11-May-13 20:02:44

wouldbe thank you, you explained it better than me, my head is a bit fuzzy at the minute. Yes I am worried about unscrupulous nurseries exploiting a ratio change for their own benefit and not even passing the cost reduction on, or reducing without reflecting on whether welfare of children (and, indeed, staff) is affected

RooneyMara Sun 12-May-13 15:23:45

I am so glad to hear this.

I just spoke to my friend who works in the baby room at a local nursery. They already have 1-3 babies per person and if this went ahead they would have 4 each.

She said it'd be chaos. Then you have got the rubbish nurseries who are just in it for a quick buck, to compete with if you offer something above the minimum recommendations.

I really hope that the whole thing is scrapped. I don't even use a nursery but I feel for those who do.

Tanith Mon 13-May-13 08:46:36

I meant to say that Nick Clegg's comments on the ratios was welcome, not Liz Truss's proposals - God forbid! smile

I do wonder, too, if Snazzy had it right at the beginning of the thread: perhaps we can trace Nick's uncharacteristic show of teeth back to that disastrous Election night the LDs had other week.

olgaga Tue 14-May-13 08:03:04

The more I think about this proposal, the more it seems a complete con.

Let's face it, it's not going to be mandatory that every EY setting will increase the number of children. It won't be possible in most anyway, as most are at capacity.

So there will be a few who increase their places and use the money to pay for more highly qualified staff - so the cost to parents will stay the same.

Many who retain the current ratios will be able to rightly tell parents that they have ratios which allow a more child-centred approach - so the cost to parents will stay the same.

I think the only way of getting around the cost of childcare is to spread the cost over a longer period.

The Govt could pay all or a greater proportion of the fees, and it is then paid back by parents over a longer period, rather like student loans.

tonyzre Wed 15-May-13 11:34:01

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