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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.

NorthernLurker Wed 06-Feb-13 13:38:46

The quoted rationale for reform has been to raise quality and manage costs. One of the concerns expressed specifically about increased ratios is that nurseries will simply increase the numbers in a room without either decreasing fees or freezing increases. How does the Minister propose to mitigate against this risk?

NickNacks Wed 06-Feb-13 13:40:39

Is that not today?

not that I wish to point out your error your gracious smile

NickNacks Wed 06-Feb-13 13:46:58

And following northern's question...

I am a registered childminder. Do you really think it is going to improve quality of childcare to increase ratios? We will be expected to reduce fees for more work. Also more resources needed, car seats, larger car, high chairs, cots etc as well as higher food costs and activity fees. I certainly couldn't afford to earn any less than I do now. I am working a 50 hour week for approx £9,000 PA. I'm in the south east. And you want us to worker harded for less???

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 06-Feb-13 13:51:08


Is that not today?

--not that I wish to point out your error your gracious smile--

oopsy - txs

ChestyLeRoux Wed 06-Feb-13 13:53:41

If nursery staff take the time to study towards becoming Early Years Teachers will there be many/any jobs available for a decent wage? If so who is going to fund these positions?

TwinkleToes64 Wed 06-Feb-13 14:22:47

How will the agencies for childminders work? Will their fee be added on top (making it more expensive for parents?) or will it be deducted from the childminders wages before it is paid over?

ElectricalBanana Wed 06-Feb-13 14:35:54

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?

MrAnchovy Wed 06-Feb-13 15:00:56

Childminder Ratios: a bit of background first to put my question in context.

Under current regulations, at any one time a childminder may normally look after 3 young children (under fives), 1 of which may be a baby (under one). However in certain circumstances childminders may exceed these ratios, and in practice many childminders look after 2 babies and 2 young children full time. Prior to September 2012 they were permitted to do this only if granted a “variation” to the regulations by Ofsted, but now childminders are allowed to take the decision to exceed the regular ratios themselves.

This situation is confusing, and may lead to poorer standards of care by some childminders who abuse the process, whether deliberately or unintentionally. I assume that improving clarity and certainty of regulation in this particular aspect is one of the minister’s objectives, and this can only be a good thing.

Ignoring proposals for temporary flexibility for the moment, can the minister confirm whether the proposed change to childminder ratios such that childminders may look after 4 young children of which 2 may be babies is intended to be a "hard" limit, working the same as the ratios for other settings? Or is it intended that there will still be an optional variation for "continuity of care" – and if so whether this would be at the option of the childminder, or granted by the childminder’s registering body (which may of course be an agency with a commercial interest in increasing the number of children the childminder looks after)?

And a linked question if I may, on temporary flexibility – this is a sensible suggestion and will I am sure be appreciated by all. As childcare is only regulated when provided for more than two hours in any day I have assumed that this will be the basis for granting flexibility – i.e. it will be permitted to exceed the normal ratios by any amount for up to two hours a day. Is this correct?

Cat98 Wed 06-Feb-13 15:06:23

How is increasing nursery ratios going to benefit the children? They will get even less attention than they do in current childcare settings, and young babies need interaction and responsive attention. How are staff going to supply this with such high ratios?
And what can you say to reassure parents who will no longer feel comfortable leaving their children in childcare due to the above point?

FunnysInLaJardin Wed 06-Feb-13 15:39:32

I would like to know what the govenment thinks it is going to achieve with this legislation? It most certainly won't benefit children or families, so who does the government see as benefitting from these changes?

Emsmaman Wed 06-Feb-13 15:39:56

How is it going to be ensured that savings due to ratios are passed onto the parents? As nurseries are money making enterprises I don't see why they would reduce fees out of kindness. I see a 2 tier system evolving where nurseries with low ratios put their prices up for a "premium service" and those who take up the new ratios keep their prices the same and pocket the difference.

MrAnchovy Wed 06-Feb-13 16:22:32

(Can I break the rules and have another question on a totally different subject?)

Like you I have a strong interest in maths and am a Chartered Management Accountant - we could be twins!

From what age do you think maths should be taught by specialist teachers, and assuming this is at primary level, what should be the minimum level of maths qualification for a primary maths teacher?

TheCarefulLaundress Wed 06-Feb-13 16:54:34

Re: the Early Years Teachers' qualification commencing Sept 2013 - will it be a 3 or 4 year degree similar to BEd or a one year course similar to PGCE?

Will students be able to apply for a student loan to cover fees and/or living costs.

TheCarefulLaundress Wed 06-Feb-13 16:57:29

How will you ensure that these highly qualify/highly trained Early Years Teachers are paid the same as Reception or Primary School Teachers?

Early Years Professionals were supposed to have the same status as Qualified Teacher Status but few EYPs are paid as well as those with QTS?

renlo Wed 06-Feb-13 18:16:55

When is your government going to stop tinkering around edges and offer real, meaningful solutions to ease the childcare burden? I'm talking here about measures that would make a significant difference, such as fully transferable tax allowance from the non working parent to the working parent; increasing the childcare voucher limit to ensure the full cost of childcare is tax deductable; extending the voucher system to those who are self employed or ensuring all schools have affordable and accessible wrap around care? These are the measures that I as a parent and many of my friends and peers would like to see. Granted they may not be cheap but is it not in the best interest of our nation to ensure we make it easier for parents to raise the next generation of tax payers?

alto1 Wed 06-Feb-13 18:30:31

When my dd was in nursery I frequently found that the real ratios were worse than the norms. The nursery owner insisted that they were allowed to relax the rules so that staff could have breaks or do cleaning and to cover days off. She said local authority inspectors would always make allowances for this. I moved my child.

How will nurseries be safe during staff breaks if the staff numbers are even lower?

StrawberryMojito Wed 06-Feb-13 19:14:12

Apparently the changes to ratios are for the benefit of the parents and children. If the feedback you are getting is overwhelmingy negative and parents clearly do not want the changes then are you going to listen and rethink the idea or push forward regardless?

LimelightsontheChristmastree Wed 06-Feb-13 19:29:34

Thank you for being here. It's very courageous.

What does Professor Nutbrown think of your proposals? Especially with regards to ratios.

LimelightsontheChristmastree Wed 06-Feb-13 19:31:54

And another!

Are we not looking at this the wrong way round. Don't we in fact lead the world when it comes to our low ratios for under-3s. Shouldn't we be celebrating that fact rather than trying to achieve mediocrity?

Bonkerz Wed 06-Feb-13 19:43:01

I have worked in early years since leaving college in 1997. I have been a nanny/nursery nurse/nursery manager and am now a childminder. I have a level 4 qualification in early years an am 12 weeks away from completing a foundation degree in early years. Currently I charge £3 per hour. I offer top quality care rated good with outstanding features by OFSTED. I run 2 toddler groups and the local childminder support group. I love my job which is just as well. My fee is minimal for the high quality care I offer. What is being proposed will make me rethink working in early years.
shock A ratio of 1:13 in a nursery would be dangerous and not achieve a reduction in fees. (Higher wages would be needed for all the extra responsibility!)
shock A GCSE in maths and English does not make a good practitioner.
shocka degree does not mean I have more than two hands! I knows limits and when caring for the most precious thing in someone's world I would never be able to offer safety and quality attention with 4 under 3!!!!!
shockAt present I like to go to toddler groups and soft plays and parks in the area and farms etc....... I would never be able to offer this with a higher ratio! So my options would basically be to join an agency and have many children (higher ratio for highly qualified) and be restricted to home OR not join an agency, remain independent and risk losing work due to parents being told that agencies are best! And if I do join am agency I could lose upto 25% of my income! That would mean I would have to increase my fees to cover this charge! How ironic!!!!!!!!!confused

Start recognising that childminders can offer high quality care by highly qualified people at a low rate! Please miss truss stop belittling us. There are many childminders like me and we deserve recognition

I'm totally confused also about the qualification side of things now. I was due to top up my FD to a bA and then an EYP but no longer feel its worth it!

mrscog Wed 06-Feb-13 19:49:07

I just have one question for Liz and it's this...

Can you honestly say hand on heart that if I gave you a 4 month old, an 11 month old, a thirteen month old and an 18 month old to look after all day that you would be able to ensure all of their safety and meet their individual needs for the whole day?

Bonkerz Wed 06-Feb-13 19:51:21

Good point mrscog, I have a challenging 20 month old available for miss truss to care for............

drivingmad Wed 06-Feb-13 19:52:30

I (as a childminder) am totally baffled by this whole scenerio, whichever way i and indeed my parents look at it, we cannot see how it would benefit the children, parents or childminders.
Firstly whichever way you try and justify it increasing ratios means less attention on a child, both for their development and their safety. For a country that is supposedly trying to increase awareness on safeguarding children, this is the most ludicrous suggestion ever......does anyone remember baby p or victoria we need to have these instances again before the government sees sense???
My other concern is 'childminder agencies': who is paying for these, the parents or the childminder, as either way someone has to and therefore will not reduce costs.
I am proud to be Ofsted regulated in my own right not through an agency. This puts us on par with nurseries, so why contradict this and take this status off us? My parents want to deal with me, not a third party to confuse matters, i and my parents want decisions on who cares for who and at what price not the govenment, that is what a childminder is for, that one to one connection you get with each other.
Please confirm that we can still be self employed, ofsted regulated and not go through agencies as otherwise it is just not the profession most of us want????
We have a 'Family Information Service' that is a free service to the public that advertises for us so why the extra cost of an agency.

If the government listened to the public and profressionals then this would never go ahead.....and on the governments head if it does and something happens to these poor innocent children involved in this!!!!!!

noviewsonbiscuits Wed 06-Feb-13 20:04:02

Were you shocked by the level of opposition to your proposals? I have rarely seen a MN thread so united in disagreement especially about the raising of ratios for under 2s- hope you've had a chance to scan it. I have yet to meet a parent who welcomes the proposals, my DD1's nursery thinks it's nuts etc. The Zoe Williams piece in the Guardian was spot on. I spent 3 hours today and yesterday observing a baby room, babies tripping over, pulling hair, smearing porridge around, crying for mummy, facing the wall glumly, rattling the gates, climbing on chairs, filling their nappies, being checked for a temperature, settling in etc. and the thought of increasing ratios makes me weep. (Fortunately the nursery have promised patents not to increase ratios even if allowed
Were you surprised to be so unpopular, did you genuinely think you were doing the right thing and that we'd be pleased?

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