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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!


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?

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