Childcare ratios ‘could hit nurseries in poor areas’

Plans in England to increase the child to nursery worker ratio could lead to a two-tier system, with a drop in quality in poor areas, a charity has warned. This is from the BBC…

The Daycare Trust says nurseries in disadvantaged areas, where lower fees are charged, are more likely to raise childcare ratios.

The charity also suggested increasing childcare ratios was risky.

The government says the changes are not compulsory and it wants to improve the quality and affordability of childcare.

It is due to make a further announcement on affordability soon.

But it had argued that relaxing the staff to child ratios for certain age groups could enable nurseries to reduce their costs and therefore be more affordable, and has proposed allowing the ratio of staff to children aged two to three to be raised from one to four, to one to six.

But the charity, which recently merged with the Family and Parenting Institute, says plans to alter ratios are likely to “exacerbate differences in quality that affect low income groups”.

This is because providers in most disadvantaged areas unlikely to be able to command the kind of high nursery fees that are charged in more affluent areas, it says.

As a result, it argues, children from low income families are more likely to be cared for by providers who are looking after more children per member of staff.

Chief executive Anand Shukla said: “The proposed changes to ratios will foster a two-tier quality system because parents can only choose the best childcare they can afford.

“We know from our focus groups that parents want generous ratios. Parents on higher incomes will demand that providers stick with generous ratios, but parents on low incomes won’t have that choice.

“The result will be that children from low income families will be more likely to receive childcare from providers with the highest ratios and get less attention and support from staff.”

He added that there was a vicious circle where parents, particularly those on low incomes, found that working did not make financial sense because of the high cost of childcare.

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