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WEBCHAT GUIDELINES 1. One question per member plus one follow-up. 2. Keep your question brief. 3. Don't moan if your question doesn't get answered. 4. Do be civil/polite. More here.

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.

ElizabethTruss Thu 07-Feb-13 13:03:25


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?

I'm very aware of the research on attachment, and to be clear on babies, we would only allow nurseries to operate on the extended ratio if they were taking on somebody who was really experienced and expert. The evidence from studies like EPPE, and from the OECD's Starting Strong work, that having graduates in settings, even for babies, has a positive impact on children's outcomes. This is particularly important for children around age 2, who are beginning to develop their vocabulary and understand their sentence structure. This is particularly important for children from low-income backgrounds, where it has a disproportionate impact.

ElizabethTruss Thu 07-Feb-13 13:04:54


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.

We are making it easier for all childminders to receive funded hours, whether or not you are part of an agency. If you are rated positively by Ofsted, under our proposals you'll automatically be eligible for this funding. If you're rated good or outstanding, you will also be able to offer 2 year old places for low-income children.

ElizabethTruss Thu 07-Feb-13 13:05:40


I have spent the last few years as a childminder building up my business to be one of the best in my town. I had a GOOD with OUTSTANDING features on my first inspection and am on track for an Outstanding this year. If i am made to join an agency and that agency is graded satisfactory or lower even with all my hard work at my end, how demoralising for quality practitioners like me! I have my NVQ level 4 equivalent and am half way through a BA in Childhood studies (Early years pathway) i am one of your "quality childminders"- but i am really considering leaving the profession as i am afraid my autonomy will be removed and i will be unable to run my business.

also...if we work for agencies- does than mean we will lose our self employed status? And if we do will your govt give us the same perks as other public servants re pension, holiday pay, sickness etc. You know what...that sounds good to me- will you do all my paperwork too Ms Truss?

I want to be really clear ElectricalBanana; you will not be made to join an agency. Joining an agency will be entirely voluntary and childminders will be able to remain individually registered with and inspected by Ofsted. It will be up to childminders to decide which option works for them and parents.

We’ll be saying more about how agencies will work soon.

We are also making changes to funding to put childminders on an equal footing to nurseries. Where an agency or independent childminder has been approved by Ofsted, they will be able to offer funded provision for three and four-year-olds without the need to jump through additional hoops at local authority level.

All good and outstanding childminders will be able to offer two year old places.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Thu 07-Feb-13 13:06:00

It doenst matter how experienced/qualified the member of staff - if there are more children and less staff each child gets less individual time - do you genuinely not understand this?

Dawnev Thu 07-Feb-13 13:06:45

Do you mean that nurseries would have to employ someone at a graduate level in order to increase the ratios for babies to 1:4 as the information given to date only suggests that the required level would be that of the EYE which is level3/Alevel equivalent?

mrscog Thu 07-Feb-13 13:06:59

'and to be clear on babies, we would only allow nurseries to operate on the extended ratio if they were taking on somebody who was really experienced and expert'

Liz, I welcome upskilling the workforce but the point is that with babies (under 18 months) it's often simply pairs of hands to feed/change a nappy/cuddle that's required hence needing at least 1:3. You could have the best child development expert ever looking after 4 under 2's and i'm sure they would provide an excellent developmental experience but there is no way they could meet their basic nappy/feed/sleep/cuddle needs.

Lostonthemoors Thu 07-Feb-13 13:07:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ElizabethTruss Thu 07-Feb-13 13:08:08


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!

The evidence around safety is that it's about good leadership and management, and having staff who are experienced, well-qualified and know what they're doing. I've visited French nurseries operating these ratios, that as a mother I'd be delighted to send my children to, as I can see that they're highly professional and safe places where children are engaged in really positive, structured play and activities. In nurseries like at Durand Academy in Stockwell, this happens in England too, where children of age 3 and 4 are led in groups of 26 with an assistant, and a really good, qualified early years teacher.

EasilyBored Thu 07-Feb-13 13:08:44

What guarantee is there that increasing ratios will lead to nurseries reducing their fees or that childcare will become in less expensive? Wont this just be an opportunity for nurseries to take on more children, or lose staff, with no benefit to parents or children?

mrscog Thu 07-Feb-13 13:08:44

And I want you to know that if you don't answer my question then I shall assume your answer was no.

In case you can't find it it's approximately post 25 on the thread.

bob567 Thu 07-Feb-13 13:09:10

Whilst I agree that childcare salaries are very poor, higher ratios = more children = higher expenses for the nursery. The fees paid by the extra children will probably never reach the worker's salaries. The issue of wages needs to be addressed in another way other than increasing ratios.

Lostonthemoors Thu 07-Feb-13 13:09:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Thu 07-Feb-13 13:09:28

as I can see that they're highly professional and safe places where children are engaged in really positive, structured play and activities

Babies don't need this, babies need hands on time and cuddles, and lots of it.

ElizabethTruss Thu 07-Feb-13 13:10:08


Ratios and agencies were not part of CCommission
Proposals you made means we were not consulted on agencies
How will independent c/ms know how to proceed to register etc, how much it will cost in registration fee and inspections

Will you be holding meetings with independent c/ms to explain the process?

There will be no change for independent childminders. This is a new option that we're offering. We will shortly be bringing out a proposed framework for agencies which a group of childminders and nurseries and other interested parties have put together. We'll be piloting the agencies from September 2013 and we've already got interest from existing childminder networks, schools and early years providers.

Lostonthemoors Thu 07-Feb-13 13:10:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SouthernPolish Thu 07-Feb-13 13:11:32

I am newly re-registered and currently re-building my Childminding business, but feel completely depressed and upset by the changes you are proposing (for reasons very well documented by thousands of other Early Years staff and parents on various other forums). I cannot be the only Childminder thinking I have made a mistake and feeling so unhappy about recent developments that I may just throw in the towel. Why should I contine? How will you cope with Childminders resigning in droves?

explosioninatoyshop Thu 07-Feb-13 13:12:12

Hi Liz,

As I understand it, the amongst the reasons for the change in ratios are to reduce costs, so that child carer workers are paid better wages and parents pay lower fees to bring us more in line with the rest of the OECD.

What measures have you put in place to ensure that the cost savings are actually passed on to parents in terms of reduced fees and care workers in increased pay?

I'm sure you must have thought about this, as otherwise the changes will only serve to increase profits for owners of private nurseries...

ElizabethTruss Thu 07-Feb-13 13:12:26


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.

Lots and lots. As a constituency MP I meet nurseries, childminders, parents and visited others across the country. I'm a mother of a 4 year old and 6 year old and I'm constantly meeting other parents, and have my own experiences of trying to find high-quality, affordable childcare. I also think we do have to look at other countries which mangage to spend about the same amount of money we do (France, Germany) but manage to achieve better staff salaries and better affordability for parents.

nicecupotea Thu 07-Feb-13 13:12:41

Ms Truss, my questions are as follows: How will the 'agencies' governing childminders work? How will they be funded? Who will run them? Will they determine how we run our settings on a daily basis and if so, how? How will the new proposals affect our self-employed status?Will childminders still be able to fill vacancies as they do now or will things change?
Where are all these childminders that you have supposedly consulted with? Can I contact them?
Ms Truss, I am a childminder. I am passionate about what I do. I wonder if you would be interested in visiting my setting to see what I REALLY do?
I am sincerely concerned that these proposals simply haven't been thought through.
One in three children leave primary school unable to read and write.
Is this government in 'panic mode?' Methinks it is.

NorthernLurker Thu 07-Feb-13 13:12:47

Easilybored's question is at least the third time that aspect has been asked about. I really hope the minister will be addressing this very important issue.

'we would only allow nurseries to operate on the extended ratio if they were taking on somebody who was really experienced and expert' - doesn't make sense to me. Are you saying that each nurseries ratio will be individually determined on the basis of the experience of each staff member? What if their highly expert person only works three days a week? will they have different ratios for different days?hmm

Bicnod Thu 07-Feb-13 13:13:11

What does lots and lots mean? Seriously? How many?!

ElizabethTruss Thu 07-Feb-13 13:14:01

Here is a quote from the OECD (on its Starting Strong work) about quality childcare:

“…Results from PISA show that high performing education systems consistently prioritise the quality of their staff over the size of classes. OECD’s work on early childhood education (Starting Strong 3) underlines the importance of having staff with proper educational qualifications and that staff qualifications are the best predictor of the quality of early childhood education and care…”

Andreas Schleicher, Deputy Director for Education and Special Adviser on Education Policy at the OECD

dontwanttobefatandforty Thu 07-Feb-13 13:14:24

I find it hard to believe you found many if anyone who agreed with your proposals!

Dawnev Thu 07-Feb-13 13:14:29

I would be very interested to know how and from where this group of childminders were recruited to consult on agency models. To my knowledge none of my colleagues in the NCMA have been approached nor have any of the child minders I link with from across the country via social media

Craftsonsea Thu 07-Feb-13 13:14:47

Hello Liz, thank you for braving mumsnet today, I can't imagine you woke up his morning looking forward to this. I wrote a blog article about how I've just been made redundant and can't find work that will pay enough for childcare anymore, but that I'm still against the ratio changes (which mumsnet kindly linked to on the blog you wrote for them.) looking here and elsewhere the feeling from parents and childcare workers seems to be very anti the changes, although obviously we all want decent wages for those who work in Childcare and to be able to afford it ourselves! With this in mind please can you reassure us that if the consultation the government is doing shows that the public really are against these changes then they won't be pushed through. Cheers.

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