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Changes to UK childcare ratios? Would love to hear what MNers from France etc think

(27 Posts)
CharlotteBronteSaurus Tue 29-Jan-13 08:05:24

So I am slightly hmm about the proposed changes to childcare ratios in the UK. I would be really interested to hear from those who have direct experience of how it all works in eg France, Germany. Any thoughts?

Nicyx Tue 29-Jan-13 10:56:47

This is another poorly thought out statement! For a start, unless I've missed it, it does not mention floor space. OFSTED have clear rules on the amount of available floor space per child, which is variant on age. (Whilst Ofsted no longer measure and set the registered number the restrictions still apply and the settings have to calculate it themselves). So unless all these settings are in huge buildings the impact will be restricted by space!! Why does the Govt instantly think that if they change the ratios the cost for parents will go down (they are obsessed with cheap childcare - how much do they pay their dog walkers again!!). When will they acknowledge that the sectors' pay needs to fairly reflect the increased level of qualification and professionalism that is now expected!! Changing ratios will jeopardise quality as it will be the poorer quality settings that are likely to push numbers higher, if space allows, to keep themselves viable.

Good quality settings will recognise that there is a capacity issue here and many staff will not feel that they are able to cope with more than four 2 year olds within a setting, which is very different than a home environment.

sleepyhead Tue 29-Jan-13 10:59:43

I'm interested in this as well Charlotte. You often read about how cheap childcare is elsewhere in Europe compared to the UK, but my understanding is that their ratios are not as tight as the UK.

It would be interesting (if this is true) to hear from people who have used childcare with higher ratios, and whether they felt that quality was seriously compromised.

Portofino Tue 29-Jan-13 11:10:52

My dd went to a Belgian creche for 4 months. There were about 12 children and 2 members of staff. I was desperate not hugely impressed but dd was 2 and happy to sit and play with the toys/eat lunch. I would not have felt comfortable putting a tiny baby there. It was MUCH cheaper than the UK nursery she left - but standards were definitely lower. On the upside though - they did potty training fantastically well.

At 2.5 here they can start Maternelle - which is free - where they are in normal school class sizes (eg 25) with ONE (fully trained EY) teacher.

Portofino Tue 29-Jan-13 11:13:48

The council run creches are heavily subsidised, and are based on your income. Places go very quickly.

ALL childcare - creches, afterschool clubs, activities such as gym/dancing, holiday clubs - is tax- deductable for the under 12s.

MammaBrussels Tue 29-Jan-13 14:31:50

Another one in Belgium here (hello Porto!). DS is in a private creche, IIRC there are 14 children in his section supervised by 2 educatrices, though not all children are there FT. The staff are fantastic, they're all graduates and multi-lingual. The facilities are wonderful and the environment stimulating. He's really happy there, learning French and playing with his friends so I'm happy. He'll start Maternelle when he's 4 (he won't enter the Belgian system).

All of this costs us around €550 per month for a FT place. As Portofino said that figure is calculated as a proportion of our family income rather than being a fixed price per child per day. It's also heavily subsidised by DH's employer and I think I can claim €11 per day back from my tax contributions which will lower the cost to around €330 pcm.

Isn't most childcare in the UK is provided by private companies? I can't see this change translating into lower childcare costs for parents, which is what's really needed.

CharlotteBronteSaurus Tue 29-Jan-13 14:46:18

thanks al, especially Porto
TBH i have always considered dd2's nursery to be "reassuringly expensive", in that this reflects a good, well-qualified staff team providing a good service. I do think the issue of wider affordability needs addressing, but can't see how the suggested measures can achieve this withour affecting quality.

CharlotteBronteSaurus Tue 29-Jan-13 14:47:51

yes, I agree Mamabrussels that this would in no way guarantee that any cost saving is passed on to the parent, rather than going inot the pockets of the nursery owner.

CharlotteBronteSaurus Tue 29-Jan-13 18:09:37

evening bump

GothAnneGeddes Tue 29-Jan-13 23:20:23

Could this go in chat for a bigger response?

I am utterly furious about the government proposals. It won't be their children who are affected.

I've written to my MP and am awaiting a response.

itsMYNutella Wed 30-Jan-13 18:13:10

I'm in Germany and as far as I am aware the provision for children under 18 months ( which by many is considered too young and they would generally wait until the child is 2-3yo) is very hard to come by. Of course it exists but I believe it is very competitive to get one of th e limited spaces.
Of course since DS is only 4weeks old it isn't really a problem yet but there are some parts of the city (Hannover) where we need to be applying now if we want a space for him at 18 months.

brianna5 Fri 01-Feb-13 09:27:17

Well, just spoke 2 my sil in sweden and most of their nuseries are government run so have free hrs depending on childs age and family income from 3months old. But every child is entitled to free hrs. Unlike the uk where 95% of nuseries are privately run so floor space wouldn't make any difference to cost as d government needs 2 open more centers or offer more hrs to children from the age of 2. Haven said all this they pay higher income taxes in sweden than the uk.

CharlotteBronteSaurus Fri 01-Feb-13 09:29:50

thanks again to those who've posted
i agree it seems less worrying for 2+, but I can't imagine looking after 4 babies or 6 1-2s

duchesse Fri 01-Feb-13 09:38:03

DD3 just spent 4 months in nursery in France. 27 children aged 2-4 in her class, staff: one teacher and one TA. Unthinkable staffing ratio in the UK, but it works!

TA does all social care- toileting, washing etc. Teacher and TA both do comforting. TA assists in all activities. Firm but calm discipline. All children organised into little tables according to age. Very carefully planned days, with activities laid out from first thing in the morning. Very structured day, with planned naps after lunch enabling both teacher and TA to have a breather. Teacher and TA alternate playground supervision so that the other gets a break. Very structured systems for moving around the school. Year 6s in the school (it's a primary) help out with the little ones in the playground in the afternoon break. If sedition threatens at any point (eg unplanned gap between activities for any reason), the teacher or TA breaks into a song that they all know and the children sing.

My mother visited during school day and remarked that she had never seen such a calm classroom of little children.

It can work. It just needs quality people.

duchesse Fri 01-Feb-13 09:39:37

Meant to talk about cost. €40/month (was a private primary school). Wrap around care 7:45- 9 and 4:40 to 6:45 cost €3.50 per day. Canteen €2.80/day. All snacks provided free.

debbsh Fri 01-Feb-13 18:36:29

As an NNEB qualified nursery nurse with over 30 years experience, I can assure the government that any decent nursery already has well-qualified staff with decent GCSEs,and other qualifications well above that level; so the idea that standards will be raised whilst increasing the number of children to staff ratio is absurd. Small children are hard work, they need a lot of supervision, time spent helping with and teaching them new skills and making sure they get enough attention. Ratios are fine as they are! Our local children's centre playgroup is losing 1 of the 3 staff it has (all qualified) and may even shut down How is that raising standards?

vix20002a Sat 02-Feb-13 02:53:48

Also are these graduate/higher qualified childcarers going to be expected to work (even harder with the new ratios) for minimum wage? What are the comparable wages in other countries?

Oodsigma Sat 02-Feb-13 07:09:35

That's an interesting question vix I recently saw a deputy managers job at a local nursery at £6.54 an hour.

vix20002a Sat 02-Feb-13 12:24:28

This is my issue with childcare provision in this country. Childcarers are expect to jump through all these hoops, complete all this training, look after the most precious thing in the parents life, which to me is a massive responsibility, and receive a pittance in return.

As a childminder I do it because I love working with children. I have no issue complying with rules that ensure the childs safety. I also have no issue complying wih rules and regulations that safeguard myself, my family and anyone else working with the children in my care. I would have no issue with DEMONSTRATING to ofsted how my children love coming to me, how what I do with them progresses their development and prepares them for nursery/school, and that I know them well enough to be aware of any problems. The parents I work with trust me to do this. But I do begrudge the hours I spend unpaid doing paperwork that the parents are, quite frankly, not interested in. And if the ratios and rates are lowered there will be even more unpaid paperwork to do. It will not affect me as I am happy to work 1/1 or 2/1 with my twins, I do not need to make a fortune, however I think the government and people complaining about the cost of childcare should ask the question "would I get out of bed for £xx.xx an hour"?. I think the answer would be "NO".

Fenouille Sun 03-Feb-13 12:47:12

Another one in France here. We pay €700/mth plus €5 per day (to cover food and activities). This is for a CM. She has just got permission to have a fourth child in her care and she has 1x 9mo, 1x 18mo, 1x 2.4 and 1x 2.7. I must admit that I was a little worried when she took on the fourth (the youngest) but it hasn't made any difference in the quality of care.

Most of my colleagues use a similar set up or what's called a creche familiale which is a CM setting but organised by the council. I think I read the government wants to see this sort of set up in the UK.

We do get to claim back some of the childcare spend from taxes but it's not as much as it used to be. The bigger help for us are vouchers which we get from work which give us around 20% discount on the year's childcare costs.

I must say that I think the government's proposals sound quite reasonable. The main concern being whether the private nurseries will pass on the savings to parents. As someone said up thread, children can start school here in the year they turn three and then they're in the classroom with >20 other children and a teacher (DS should start this September when he will be 2.9).

And FWIW my impending DC2 should start with my CM at 4mo or so in nine months. By then she will have 1x 2, 1x 18mo plus another two under 1 probably.

ReallyTired Sun 03-Feb-13 20:15:08

I have been reading

The changes are not as scary as some of the newpapers make out. I think that allowing childminders a little bit more flexibility is good. Childminders can care for up to six children at the moment.

If France gets such good results with its structured nurseries then it makes me wonder about our play based curriculum.

phonem260 Sun 03-Feb-13 22:29:12

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

SamSmalaidh Sun 03-Feb-13 22:43:21

I think it's worth bearing in mind that places like France and Belgium that have very high ratios of children to adults is that their philosophy of early years care/education is different to this country's tradition. In order for 2 adults to manage 25 2-3 year olds there needs to be a high level of discipline, conformity and organisation - a UK early years classroom with lots of emphasis on free choice, free flow between inside and outside, child-initiated activity, inclusion of children with additional needs couldn't function at those staffing levels.

I lived for a while in Berlin, and there most parents seemed to stay off for a year, then children could go to a childminder (who had up to 4 1-3 year olds), then from 2-3 children would go to a kindergarten and where in mixed age groups (2-5 year olds) on about a 1:6 ratio. The amount parents pay is based on income, up to about 400 euros a month for a full time place, but many childminders and kindergartens are only open for about 6 hours a day.

Phil1972 Mon 04-Feb-13 10:55:03

Increasing the ratio's and expecting increase in quality and standards - Sorry isn't that illogical?

I agree that the pittance a nursery assistant is paid leads to poor quality while the nursery itself makes a tidy and handsome profit.

Raising the bar, minimum GCSE Maths and English grades or equivalent and a more realistic and enticing salary for nursery STAFF (Management and owners already get plaenty) is the only way it would work positively given the above.

But how can you restrict profit to give more to the salaries of staff. Over to you government.

Fingers crossed.

vess Mon 04-Feb-13 12:03:08

Actually many places in the UK are pretty relaxed about ratios. They may have the number of people but not at all times, or they may be in and out and definitely not engaged with the children throughout the session. I suppose those people are still there should the need arise... maybe.
That's just personal observations, of course.

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