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Live webchat about childcare reform with Liz Truss, Education & Childcare Minister, Thursday 7 February, 1pm

(408 Posts)
JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 06-Feb-13 13:14:14

Hello hello,

We'll be welcoming the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare - Elizabeth Truss MP - for a webchat on Thursday Feb 7th (tomorrow) 1pm - 2pm.

As the Member of Parliament for South West Norfolk, Elizabeth Truss lives in Downham Market with her husband and two daughters. She was brought up in Yorkshire and, before entering Parliament, worked as the Deputy Director at the think-tank Reform. She also worked in the energy and telecommunications industry for 10 years and is a qualified management accountant.

Elizabeth recently wrote a Mumsnet guest blog on the Government's plans for childcare reform, which generated this recent thread - and childcare expert Penelope Leach responded to the proposals here.

Do post your question in advance on this thread, or join us live on Thursday 1pm-2pm.

And, as ever, a gentle reminder to all to stick to our webchat guidelines.

Many thanks.

mousebacon Wed 06-Feb-13 20:33:29

I genuinely cannot understand why you think these proposals are a good idea.

Changing the ratios will not reduce costs for parents.

Being able to have more children and fewer staff will only dilute the quality of the provision for those children involved.

There is no way I would allow my child to go to a nursery or child minder with such unmanagable numbers. I would give up my own job (as an early years teacher!) to ensure my child's safety and emotional wellbeing were being taken care of.

My question is this: who does this proposal benefit? Because it's not the children and it's not the many wonderful early years practitioners who will refuse to up their numbers to earn a bit more cash. Who benefits?!

neolara Wed 06-Feb-13 20:42:32

In developing your proposals for increasing ratios for children aged 2 and under, what consideration has been given to (the widely accepted) views on the importance of developing sound attachments with responsive care-givers? Whose advice have you sought and what did they say? Is their advice consistent with others involved in child development (e.g. developmental psychologists)? How realistic do you think it is that a carer (even one with GCSEs in maths and English) will be able to provide responsive care to 4 babies under the age of 1 or six 2 year olds?

mrscog Wed 06-Feb-13 20:45:00

Also, I have given the nursery I use notice that I will be withdrawing my son if they increase ratios for under 2's to 1:4.

This will have the effect of removing either me or my DH (both highly skilled professionals with our own business making money for the economy) from the workforce as one of us will have to care for our son.

Lostonthemoors Wed 06-Feb-13 21:03:33

I have not met one parent who thinks the reduction in ratios is a good idea.

I have not met one parent who thinks childcare fees will go down when the new rules come into effect.

I voted for your government in the last election, which I mention only to show my comments are not politically partisan.

I would just like to ask this:

What child care did you choose for your own children when they were under 2 and would you have been happy having them in nursery full time with the now proposed ratios?

Snowgirl1 Wed 06-Feb-13 21:03:58

I couldn't agree more MrsCog.

Elizabeth, how will having a grade C GCSE in maths (which has a syllabus of algebra, geometry, statistics, probability, trigonometry etc.) help improve pre-schoolers maths ability? Surely it would have more effect train Early Years practioners on how to help children develop their maths ability than to insist the practioners have a grade C Maths GCSE?

I don't want particularly want graduates to look after my 13 month old daughter - I want caring, compassionate people who are considerate of her needs (and who have the time to do so because they are not overwhelmed with the number of children they are caring for). Degrees haven't necessarily improved the quality of nursing care. I don't believe they will necessarily improve the quality of childcare.

I hope you see sense and do not progress with these proposals.

LauraChildcare Wed 06-Feb-13 21:13:08

I agree with qualifications, salary, status and a reduction in fees for parents. However, a big no, no to any changes in ratios.

Providers, academics, experts and practitioners have all stated sound arguments against a change in ratios.

In addition, parents are so rightly concerned.

My letter as a parent and an early years specialist to parents:

laurachildcare.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/changes-to-childcare-for-parents/

Not sure, how savings will be made to parents or increase in salary to staff?

Surely, look at consolidating all the funding streams - Childcare vouchers, Childcare element of tax credits, 3&4 (2 year old funding) year old funding and have one funding stream - as it's costly and clumsy to promote so many initiatives and the money is all ultimately going the same way.

Also, TAX and Business rates that childcare providers have to pay.

There was another waste of money recently, from your colleague Ms Miller: Small grants for new providers. Money would have been better spent on existing providers with business/marketing support. Many providers are struggling to fill vacancies.

My question: With the universal support, against changing ratios. Will Ms Truss, change her views on ratios?

mrscog Wed 06-Feb-13 21:33:53

One final message for Liz about the ratio proposals, and one area where I do agree with them/see the need, is for a 1/2 hour/1 hour changeover slot in the day. I know a few childminders who say this would be very helpful.

Agaphe Wed 06-Feb-13 21:43:22

I would appreciate it if you could clear up the question of Childminder Agencies, if I do not join one will I be stopped from offering the funded hours that I am able to now? If so why should I be penalised and the parents of the children I care for? I have been able to offer the funding for many years now and feel that I do not need an agency to tell me how to do my job, my network has been there for me if I needed anything, and of course I did not have to pay for the priviledge.

GetKnitted Wed 06-Feb-13 21:55:36

Plenty of people have said what I wanted to say have already clearly expressed in the consultation, which you seem to have dismissed. That is, that raising ratios will decrease the quality of childcare, increase and not decrease the cost of good childcare, and consequently force many new mothers OUT of work.

Question: Are you brave enough to change this ludicrous Bill?

I know this is another question from me blush but.....

What is the government going to do for parents with school age children who use childcare? It has been rumoured that the childcare vouchers salary sacrifice scheme will be scrapped in favour of measures that will help those with pre-school age children only. Would you agree that would be a very backward step?

merrymouse Wed 06-Feb-13 23:00:07

Is it reasonable to compare Scandinavian nursery staff salaries given that on the one hand nurseries are highly subsidised, but on the other hand income tax rates are higher? Are you comparing like with like or have you just done a straight currency conversion?

flattyre Thu 07-Feb-13 07:29:53

Do you recognise that many of these measures will simply increase social divide? On the area I live there are many nurseries. I sit on the parents' committee at my son's and the owner has stated she would want to stick to the ratios as they are for 'quality of care' (great) but will obviously have to 'charge a premium' for this differentiated service.

blondieminx Thu 07-Feb-13 08:25:03

Thanks for coming on to Mumsnet to get our feedback.

I do hope that you appreciate the implications of these proposals and that you will be sensible about ratios and abandon that element of the proposals, because beyond providing responsive care for individual needs the ratio will simply not be safe - I have no doubt that accidents (and god forbid deaths) will increase if these plans go forward. Please don't dare come here and say that you've consulted such an important forum to attempt to give any validity to these dangerous proposals.

GCSE's do not equal more pairs of hands or eyes.

My question: how will you ensure settings operate safely with the proposed new ratios, and to show that you really have thought about the idea in practice, will you commit to undertaking a "back to the floor" visit for a whole day to a busy nursery working to the current ratios?

If previous elections have been said to be about "Mondeo mums" then please really listen to us here. We do vote and we will bear all this in mind at the next election! We're all saying the same - this ratios thing is a really bad idea!

fraktion Thu 07-Feb-13 08:26:13

I actually thoroughly support your plans for qualifications, although the mixing up of Professor Nutbrown's recommended level 2 and the (very British) GCSE may rule out any highly qualified overseas graduates from working in childcare.

I don't support the view on ratios and would like to extend an invitation for you to come and see provision in the French town where I live, which won't be the French Government's cherry picked settings in Paris so you can see the differences necessary to ensure the safety of so many children and speak to my friends who can't get a FT crèche place or are on a waiting list for garderie.

Question: why, as a nanny employer yourself, probably out necessity like many parents, have you made no mention at all of nannies as part of the early years workforce, not improved the voluntary register which has severe problems, or given them the option of integrating more closely with the workforce to receive funding as many would like to do?

Lostonthemoors Thu 07-Feb-13 08:30:21

Flat, that's a very interesting point you make - some settings will not move to the new ratios and will be able to increase fees in return.

This could actually lead to an increase in childcare fees confused

fraktion Thu 07-Feb-13 09:02:37

Sorry I have a correction. I agree 95% with your stance on qualifications. I don't understand the rationale for not giving EY teachers QTS if they just be trained to the same level, pass the same tests and do the same job. Is that not just devaluing Early Years, which you seem otherwise keen to avoid, and can you explain why?

PoppyK Thu 07-Feb-13 09:25:19

Do you have any worked examples of how the increased ratios will lower costs while increasing salaries, and do the examples take into account the fact that a significant number of parents don't want full time childcare, which means that the resulting gaps have to be built into the fees?

I appreciate that childminder agencies are designed partially to address this issue, but even assuming that parents will be happy to leave their children with any childminder in the agency, regardless of their childminding style and indeed location, aren't the income streams just too small to give a reasonable profit for both the agency and the childminder?

lionheart Thu 07-Feb-13 09:26:05

I agree Lost, it will mean that some people will be able to pay higher fees for a better ratio and the quality of care your child recieves will be determined, in part, by how much you can afford.

Al0uise Thu 07-Feb-13 09:26:39

The best way of making childcare more affirdable would be to make childcare, including qualified Nannies, tax deductible.

Easy, cheap to administer and far more incentivising than fiddling with credits.

It is the logical solution so why isn't it already in the pipeline?

BettyStogs Thu 07-Feb-13 09:30:52

I would like to know how many parents, childminders and nursery staff you spoke with before coming up with this new policy, and how many of them agreed with your proposals.

HappySunflower Thu 07-Feb-13 09:36:52

As a childcare professional with 20 years of experience in the field, including time spent as an Early Years Inspector for Ofsted, I have grave concerns about these reforms.
My main concerns are as follows:

1. You say that increasing ratios will lower the cost of childcare. How will you enforce this? I suspect that many providers will take the opportunity to gain more profit, not to pass on savings to their parents in the form of a reduction in fees. Some providers barely break even at the end of the month as it is.

2. Regarding the suggested change to staff:child ratios. Have you actually consulted with, and listened to a range of practitioners, and visited them within their settings to experience, fully, what things are like on the ground? The suggested amendments will put the safety and welfare of children at risk and will, if anything, reduce the quality of the provision offered.

3. A qualification does not mean that somebody has more arms than another practitioner. So why is it suggested that ratios are different depending on a qualification?

4. I have worked with some wonderfully talented, and skilled nursery nurses/ early years practitioners. Please do not forget about the superb quality of this part of our childcare workforce.
A teaching qualification does not alone offer the same emphasis on child development, attachment and care that equips people for caring for and nurturing our very youngest children.
Please do not let our under threes become shortchanged and let down as a result of this reform.

My biggest plea to you, is that you make every effort to keep children at the very heart of this reform. For it is they who will be the most affected by these proposals.

Togetherforquality Thu 07-Feb-13 09:36:53

RE Agencies for childminders

If agencies are to manage ; the matching of parents to childminder, the contracts, the fees (as in collect from parents and pay to the childminder), deal with paperwork so the children can 'get on with looking after the children' the childminder will be employed by the agency and indeed will be graded as part of the agency.

Will the agency therefore be dealing with the expenses side of childminding?
So buying of resources and food etc, running cost of the car, outings and so on?

If so how will this work? On a reimbursement of expenses paid for, or vouchers to spend in certain shops? How will you deal with differing expenses?

I am sure that you will have thought of this because if the agency is to handle the business side for those in the agency they will have to handle both the income and expenditure

TiggyD Thu 07-Feb-13 09:44:07

Hello Liz.

Be careful what you drink at Mumsnet HQ. I hear they even put gin in their tea.

I've been in childcare 20 years. Given that 99% of parents don't want higher ratios, staff don't want higher ratios and I think that children wouldn't want higher ratios, the only people left who could want higher ratios are the nurseries and nursery companies. Why would a nursery or company want to bring in something that would upset all their staff and their parents? To be a nursery who goes to the new higher ratios would be like putting a big flag outside saying "Keep away!".

The ratios for over 3s in a nursery is 1:8 or 1:13 if you have a teacher and level 3 in the room, which is basically what you want for the under 3s. I have never worked in or visited a nursery that had the higher ratio and many proudly boast of 1:6 and use it as a big selling point.

Question: Do you think any nursery will adopt the new ratio/staff changes for babies and toddlers?

MrsGBox Thu 07-Feb-13 09:48:58

Why do you think that Ofsted will be able to support Early Years providers to improve their quality of provision when currently its role is monitoring? Local authorities hold local knowledge and experience of quality improvement. Inspecting more frequently will not raise standards. It appears from this document that Ofsted will either do what local authorities already do, in which case why? Or they will have a reduced remit for quality improvement - In which case how do you think that will improve standards?

BabyRoger Thu 07-Feb-13 09:50:17

My question is:

Are you truly considering the opinions of working parents with regard to these changes?

I know of not one single parent who agrees with the increase in ratios. I would love to be able to afford to have a nanny at home looking after my two children all day but as I cannot afford this, I use a nursery.

Increasing the ratios will lead to lower quality care for the children - surely this is obvious?

As another poster has said, these changes seriously make me consider whether I will give up work - then you will have yet another person out of the job market and not paying tax. I am not willing to send my children to inferior child care.

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