Childcare reform proposals face fierce criticism

Plan to increase number of children childminders and nursery workers can look after will have negative impact, critics say. This is from the Guardian…

Parents and childcare bodies have come out strongly against government proposals to let carers look after more children.

Elizabeth Truss, the early years minister, said the measure would bring limits in the UK in line with other European countries with good quality childcare, and would allow carers to earn more money and so encourage more into the profession.

However, the announcement that a single nursery worker could look after up to four babies under one or up to six two-year-olds, and childminders could care for four under-fives including two babies, faced criticism from across the spectrum.

Neil Leitch, the chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, which describes itself as “the largest representative organisation of childcare and early years providers in England”, said: “We are absolutely appalled by this fixation to alter ratios, despite the fact that those working in the sector are universally opposed to the proposal.”

The National Childminding Association, which represents home-based childminders and nannies, said there was “some good news” – where the proposals had been adapted to take into account previous concerns about raising the limit for childminders from a total of six to eight young children – but it still had “significant concerns”, particularly about increasing the number of under-fives without extra support, and allowing childminding agencies, which could dilute inspection of individual carers in their homes.

“Parents rely on Ofsted inspection of individual childminders to reassure them their child will be safe and receive a quality experience in that individual’s care,” said Liz Bayram, the association’s joint chief executive. “Ultimately the business model for an agency is based on recruiting lots of childminders willing to pay them a fee and, potentially a commission, for placing parents with them.”

Purnima Tanuku, the chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, said many parents were worried the changes would have a negative impact on their children, adding: “We are particularly concerned about suggestions to increase the number of children under three that nursery staff can look after, due to the degree of personal attention needed by very young children.

“Strong adult-child interactions are vital for good child development. Staff with higher qualifications will still find it difficult to give larger groups of under-threes the level of practical care they need.”

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