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To think change in childcare ratios will lower childcare standards

(526 Posts)
moogy1a Tue 29-Jan-13 08:17:34

Proposed change in ratios for nurseries and childminders means that some nurseries will almost double the number of children with the same number of staff.
How can this possibly improve childcare standards? Common sense says more children, less attention per child no matter how qualified the staff.
The proposal also seems to think this will lower costs. it won't. Costs per child will be the same but nursery profits will increase.
For CM's the ratios are also to increase. The whole point of CM's is that you can get out and about to parks / playgroups etc. How will that happen with 4 one year ols to transport?

olgaga Thu 31-Jan-13 20:07:04

sunshine you are correct. Anyone who has ever worked in a nursery will tell you the same. They employ the absolute minimum they can get away with already, so when there is staff sickness or holidays, they cope. As you say, they bring in friends/former employees - even mums, if necessary.

They're hardly likely to close a nursery and turn away all that revenue and risk client goodwill for the sake of covering a couple of staff absences.

Who suffers? The remaining staff, and of course the children.

But it seems that the only worry is whether it's affordable.

lizzid Thu 31-Jan-13 21:34:17

I second oddboots comment. We certainly adhere to ratios in my setting!! and I usually aim to be one over to cover staff absence or lateness without the disruption to the children that arranging agency cover causes and to enable staff to spend time on the childrens' development records. We also have a student most days (not counted in the ratio) and the option of calling on the manager to help out on the floor as well (she also helps with lunch cover) for which again we have exactly the same ratios. Maybe i'm naive but I can't imagine other nurseries regularly operate at lower than the minimum ratios as to do so would be illegal and downright dangerous.
The proposed increases to the ratios make me very sad as I too imagine this will lead to a two tier system with some nurseries using this as a way to cut costs (although whether they will be passed on to parents is a different matter...)
I'm also deeply saddened to hear how appalling the wages of some of the nursery staff who've posted on here are. And the comments of those chilcare practitioners whose employers haven't even helped them to access training courses - several training providers offer it free if you're working full-time in a setting.

I read yesterday (on a blog response to this proposal) a comment that really drove home to me the injustice of this. i.e. that the government say that increasing access to childcare for parents should help social mobility for the poorest families but if the whole childcare system is essentially based on slave labour, with a huge number of chldcare workers paid minimum wage at best, where's the justice in that!

nannynick Thu 31-Jan-13 21:44:16

The ratios which are adhered to are the ones which are Per Nursery, rather than Per Room - would I be right in saying that? EYFS2012 did emphasise that "Children must usually be within sight and hearing of staff and always within sight or hearing." Some nurseries will apply ratio on a per-room basis, others will take the more overall approach.

It depends on the layout of the nursery often and most of the time it works fine. However sometimes it may result in staff in one room having more children than they can cope with, as some of the children are in ratio of a member of staff who is elsewhere in the nursery.

Due to the ratio being across the nursery as a whole I feel that sometimes staff and parents can think that the nursery is not working within the ratio limits. Is that how it sometimes comes across?

olgaga Thu 31-Jan-13 23:10:24

I would just like to say I'm not speaking as a parent who has gained an "impression". As far as I was concerned the nursery DD attended was more than adequate if poorly managed, and a some of the staff (not all) were marvellous. I found the really good ones tended to move on though.

However, DD was only there two afternoons a week - she didn't attend nursery until she was old enough to communicate her feelings about the experience.

I only speak from my own experience and that of two friends who have been nursery workers, and a friend who is a childminder.

JessMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 01-Feb-13 10:38:21

Hello all
We've got another guest blog response to these proposals - this time from childcare expert Penelope Leach. Do pop over and have a look, it's a very interesting read.

Togetherforquality Fri 01-Feb-13 11:07:24

Hello All

My name is Penny Webb and I am the childminder who has started the petition urging the government not to change the ratios in early years setting.

So far over 18,000 people have signed the petition

Parents, grandparents, early years practitioners from all sectors, socvial workers, mental health professionals, teachers, headteachers, Health Visitors and other professional are united in their belief that thes ideas are not in the best interests of children.

But my personal campaign against Ms.Truss's ideas started almost a year go and will continue for as long as it takes, and much more information can be found on my blog.

I have read many of the comments on here and would urge you all (if you have not already done so) to visit the petition site and decide for yourselves if you agree or not - after reading the petition wording and the wonderful comments left by so many.

AGETS Fri 01-Feb-13 11:24:44

I agree with everything Penny Leach (who I have utmost respect for as an expert in infant mental health and childcare) has to say about the Truss proposals. If the proposals on ratios do go ahead I am certain many children will be hugely disadvantaged by this.

Xenia Fri 01-Feb-13 11:24:52

Leach is wrong. Lots of parents are in favour of deregulation. Market forces usually work best. State interference is usually bad.

Also since when did public opinion make good policies? We have voting for Governments who decide things. We do not have voting by public opinion and referenda, thank goodness. If public opinion ruled we'd be in a right mess. The public are often wrong.

ReallyTired Fri 01-Feb-13 11:35:43

I feel we need to look at research rather than an outright opposition to relaxing ratios.

I think its ridicolous insisting on 1 to 8 for children over four. Reception aged children are fine with a ratio of 1 to 15. In the past there were reception classes with well over 30 and one teacher. Maybe we need to decide how play based learning should be. Children often enjoy a mixture of organised activites as well as playing.

Prehaps outstanding settings can manage higher ratio more effectively.

olgaga Fri 01-Feb-13 12:41:10

Penelope Leach is absolutely correct - particularly with regard to her views about how this will have little effect on Childminders, for whom 3 including a baby is about all that can be managed. I have posted upthread about this.

ReallyTired no reception class has less than two adults at any one time. You are ignoring the fact that a school has a fully staffed office with people to call on if necessary, who can assist in case of medical need, contacting parents etc. In addition, by the time children get to Reception they are expected to be fully independent for toilet visits. A year older at that time of a child's life makes a huge amount of difference.

It's a completely different situation to that of a EY daycare setting.

All that will happen is that the cheap-end nurseries will continue to do what they do now - pack as many children in as they can, just with even fewer staff than now. Nursery workers will continue to be undervalued and underpaid, absence rates and turnover will increase.

Childminders who compete for business with the cheap-end nurseries will not lower their rates for providing a more exclusive service in a smaller setting.

High-end nurseries will continue to charge a huge amount because let's face it, in the free market Xenia holds so dear, you get what you pay for and if you want a better service you pay more. Those who can afford it will continue to grit their teeth and cough up for expensive nursery education and full-time nannies.

ReallyTired Fri 01-Feb-13 13:02:41

"ReallyTired no reception class has less than two adults at any one time. You are ignoring the fact that a school has a fully staffed office with people to call on if necessary, who can assist in case of medical need, contacting parents etc. "

Nurseries often employ managers who are in the office doing accounts.

Anyway I am opposed to any lowering of ratios for babies and toddlers. I think that more research is needed before lowering ratios for over threes. Unlike most countries Britain has the disablity discrimination act so nurseries need more staff than France or Germany.

Babies need cuddles far more than school children. Anyway parents need childcare well beyond pre school age. It would help parents no end if there were more places in after school clubs and easier for schools to set up after school clubs. (Ie not expecting an after school club to follow the EYFS when the children have been at school all day.)

At the moment many parents of school aged children are still crippled by childcare. (ie. childminder charges £4 to £5 an hour per child might mean that a parent pays £20 per child per day for wrap around care, plus holiday costs (£40 a day per child). It may not be financially worth it for a mother with three children to go back to work when they are all at school.)

Why do six year olds in an after school club need a ratio of one to 8? It is laughable that many schools allow eight year olds to walk home on their own (Ie. very young year 4 child) yet we treat seven year olds like three year olds.

olgaga Fri 01-Feb-13 13:13:56

Nurseries often employ managers who are in the office doing accounts.

Yes I do realise that. It doesn't compare with a fully staffed school office. At the nursery my DD attended the "Manager" was usually making up the numbers for staff who were absent.

Can I ask, since everyone thinks the cost of childcare is so high, what do you think would be an appropriate hourly rate for looking after your child?

Bear in mind you'd be lucky to get a dog walker for £4 an hour!

mmmerangue Fri 01-Feb-13 13:36:53

The nursery where my son goes is lovely. They have a ratio of 1:3 as per current guidelines. They give a good service and being in the country are considerably cheaper than what most of you pay, I assume. I once went in and one, very stressed looking nursery nurse was sat on the floor with two crying tots on her knee, another pulling at her sleeve whinging, one woman was feeding a tot in a highchair while trying to distract the 3rd crying child, and my DS and another boy were milling about happily and oblivious. I had a little hmm moment; but yes on counting they were just having a moment at the end of the day where lots of tired toddlers, possibly having had a falling out, all wanted a little cuddle at the same time.

Then one of them offered to walk me to the Door?! hmmhmmhmm I politely said, 'you look like you've got enough to deal with here, I'll show myself out!' If they had left to show me to the door then that would have been one woman looking after 6 6mo-20mo's, several of whom were demanding attention at that moment!

If that ratio was extended to 1:4, I cannot see how the staff can adequately provide. The baby room there usually has 3 staff on and only 6 or 7 babies, so a better ratio than required. My DS has moved up to the toddlers section which is a bit wilder but still plenty of staff. They still are not neccessarily right next to a child when they use the loo, though, they might be helping one on with his trousers while another goes, because buses (and toddler pee apparently) always come in threes... 1:4 just seems unmanagable. Don't like it.

First petition link is dead though...

TiggyD Fri 01-Feb-13 14:50:13

"I think its ridicolous insisting on 1 to 8 for children over four. Reception aged children are fine with a ratio of 1 to 15."

For over 3s the ratio is 1:13 IF you have a qualified teacher present and at least one other level 3 qualified person as well. I have worked in many nurseries as staff and supply staff and have never worked somewhere that worked 1:13. Nurseries already have a choice to do what Trussy suggests by choosing to raise ratios if they have very qualified staff and they choose not to.

ReallyTired Fri 01-Feb-13 16:05:44

If you read what you quoted I said OVER FOUR

The youngest child in a reception class may well be four years and one week. Most children are four years old in a reception class for the first term.

Why does the childcare debate focus solely around nurseries. School aged children still require childcare.

Narch Fri 01-Feb-13 16:06:41

I would also recommend reading research on ratios for very young children in nursery at

Have you seen the petition at

Narch Fri 01-Feb-13 16:07:09

That should be

ReallyTired Fri 01-Feb-13 16:08:35

In fact a class of four year olds can legally be looked after and taught by two higher level teaching assistants for a day.

Yet, the same higher level teaching assistants cannot run an after school club with more than 16 children on the school premises. Before you ask there are plenty staff on site up to 6 O'Clock in a school. (Ie. caretaker, some over worked teachers, the receptionist goes home at 5pm)

TiggyD Fri 01-Feb-13 16:25:00

I was replying to what you said Really
"I think its ridicolous insisting on 1 to 8 for children over four." Nobody is insisting on 1 to 8 for children over four. The ratio is up to 1:13 and nobody chooses to have that many in a nursery.

taxi4ballet Fri 01-Feb-13 19:14:50

Most nurseries are already full to capacity. If these changes go through, they won't need so many staff, and people will lose their jobs.

merrymouse Fri 01-Feb-13 20:26:43

I agree that public opinion is often wrong, but I am not convinced that the government do know anything more about this than the average mother of young children.

They seem to be saying that, in a vague way, French and Swedish childcare is admired. French and Swedish nurseries have different childcare ratios. Therefore they must be admired because they have different childcare ratios.

I know some people admire the fact that French nurseries cook great food, and Swedish nurseries have so much outdoor time, and both are highly subsidised, but has anybody actually researched them and concluded that they do provide better care for under 5's than all British childcare settings, and the defining factor that makes them good is that the government allows them higher childcare ratios?

Because it seems like nutjobbery to me.

ReallyTired Fri 01-Feb-13 20:46:44

British children are some of the unhappiest in the world. Prehaps we need to look at what we can do to improve our children's welbeing rather than doing childcare on the cheap.

At the moment we have some of the smallest chidlcare ratios in the world, yet our children are not ahead of those in other countries at the age of five.

Titchyboomboom Fri 01-Feb-13 22:15:36

I am a childminder and on some days I have 3 under 5's and it is hard work. I personally will not change my ratios, whatever the law says!

olgaga Sat 02-Feb-13 00:24:42

So going back to the cost, which is what this is all about, is childcare actually too expensive?

What do those who use childcare think it should cost?

mercator Sat 02-Feb-13 09:43:59

If they want to get mothers back to work they should look at better tax breaks, child benefit etc to help support the cost of nurseries and child care. Instead they reduce or remove it totally and then try and increase ratios which I am sure all us mums are firmly against. How can they possibly provide decent care to young children by increasing them.

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