How many children do you look after?

… And how many children do you think a nursery worker can care for?

The Government has proposed to increase the ratios in day care so a nursery worker can look after up to 4 under twos – currently the limit is 3 – and up to 6 two year olds, rather than the current limit of four.

Personally, I’m not sure it is a great idea. Children benefit from developing relationships with their carers. When I settled D for the first time in nursery around 10 years ago, it was important to me, and to her, that I handed her to her key worker. Even as a tiny baby, she was able to know a familiar face and scent, and be reassured by it. Small children also need contact, and interaction, both of which will be cut if there are fewer staff.

A nursery worker interviewed on Radio One’s Newsbeat summed it up really simply when she explained how she might have a chance of getting three non-walking kids out in case of a fire, but there was no way she could carry four. Zoe Williams has tested the idea out – read her article here.  I particularly liked the way she highlighted which child would get ignored, and the impossibility of taking the children out with the new ratio. Penny Webb, a childminder with 30 years experience, is concerned too. She is clear that the impact on quality of care will be ‘devastating’.

My final concern is that the Government claims this will make childcare more affordable, and I’m just not convinced. If you look at the economics of running a nursery, there isn’t much money to spare. Parents do struggle to cover the cost of childcare, but nursery staff are generally poorly paid. Will parents really see the cost of childcare fall? There are concerns about this from the leaders of organisations including Family Parenting Institute and Daycare Trust and the National Day Nurseries Association too: “The evidence is that changes to ratios would not in practice significantly reduce costs to parents but might have a negative effect on the quality of care children receive.”

Is the change in ratio something you are willing to accept as a parent, in order to make childcare a little more affordable? It is vital that parent’s voices are heard in this discussion. How much reduction in costs would make childcare affordable to you? I’d love to know your views …

If you feel that this change isn’t a good idea there are a number of petitions that you can sign:

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  • As an ex-childminder I cannot believe what the Government are thinking!!

    Parents send their children to minders (or even nurseries) because of the care that is able to be given on a one to one basis. This care is likely to be compromised if the ratios are going to be raised.

    Okay, minders have a choice on whether to go up to their full ratio or not, and whether they are able to cope with more children BUT nursery staff will have no say.

    I cannot see how this is going to lower childcare costs, if anything it is going to mean redundancies as nursery staff are no longer needed. Is this something an already overstretched economy can cope with?

  • I don’t think it makes that much difference – as parents we aren’t going to see the drop in childcare costs because of this. We might see a drop in real terms if we were allowed to claim the cost of childcare as an allowable business expense, why not do that if you want to help working parents?

    In terms of fire safety, our nursery has evacuation cots, because there’s no way you could expect someone to carry 3 babies and hold onto them once outside safely. It wouldn’t make any difference if there were 3 or 4 babies in the cot. I don’t see the nursery passing on the cost savings to parents, and the good nurseries will probably keep to this childcare ratio of 1:3.

  • No no bad idea! Don’t like the thought of safety – even just playing outside. I also agree with little ones building a relationship with their carers – def think it’s not a positive step forward – where is the benefit?

  • I think the better nurseries and childminders will continue with the existing ratios, and it’s likely to be the money grabbing, poorer ones which will increase them…therefore for people who’re already having to put their children in poorer quality childcare, may suffer further.

    Our nursery (it’s extortionate in price) is sticking with its ratios and I’m definitely pleased about that. I think parents want their children to be cared for by people who have the time for them. By increasing ratios, the opposite will happen.

    It’s proven in schools that smaller classes are more successful, with more attention for the children. Surely this should apply to childcare as well.

  • I have 3 children under 4 and by gosh its is it hard to ensure they receive 1-1 dedicated time and attention – I am not keen on the idea at nursery they will not be receiving this.

    I want to know my children are in a safe environment and you do need eyes in the back of your head with young children.

    I pay for my children to be cared for – not to be just a number!

  • Hi Antonia – sorry its taken m a while, but I am wholly unsure about this, safety aside, what about when there are all of the little ones needed comforting, and only one person to do it? After naps my two could be grouchy for an hour – how do you manage that one when they are all grouchy together and need a cuddle?

  • I’m very lucky and have also sacrificed a lot to make sure that having my children at home until they are 3 and half years old has been possible. It hasn’t been easy but it was something that was important to me, based on my own personal beliefs. One of those beliefs was to ensure they got the attention and love they deserve. I think at the moment nursery staff do a great job, the ones I know always talk about the kids they work with really fondly and you can tell they feel love for them. That’s what I would have wanted for my own children should they have gone to nursery, for them to have the one to one attention they need and to feel loved by the people caring for them, ‘love shapes a baby’s brain’ and all that! However, I think what the government are proposing will reduce the amount of attention and how safely a child can be looked after (referring to the fire safety issue you mentioned here), and I know that the nursery staff I know are against these changes just as much as the parents are. I could not have personally afforded to send my children to nursery even if I had wished too, but like someone mentioned earlier why not make it so it can be claimed back as a business expense, surely that makes most sense?

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