Cut nursery staff to child ratio, urges minister

Staff at nurseries in England should be allowed to look after more children at once, Schools Minister Elizabeth Truss has urged. This is from the BBC…

In a blog Ms Truss described England’s adult-to child ratios for nurseries and child minders as “restrictive”.

She also praised the French system where children are taught in larger groups by better qualified and higher paid staff than in England.

Labour said cutting nursery staff numbers could risk the quality of care.

The current rules stipulate one member of staff for every eight children over three years old. For two- to three-year-olds, each member of staff should care for no more than four children. And for children aged under two, there should be one member of staff for every three children.

Writing for the website Conservative Home, Ms Truss argued that England needed to change the way it organised and provided childcare.

“In England we need to move to a simpler, clearer system that prioritises quality and safety over excessive bureaucracy.”

In particular she stressed that other European countries operated successful childcare systems with lower adult to child ratios. She argued that onerous requirements on staff numbers in England “put a cap on salaries” and meant nurseries struggled to “retain and recruit high quality people”.

“It is no coincidence that we have the most restrictive adult-child ratios for young children of comparable European countries as well as the lowest staff salaries”.

She said that French ‘ecoles maternelles’, where teachers taught large groups of three- and four-year-olds, were so well regarded that they were now being opened to disadvantaged two-year-olds.

She added that creches for under-threes were also very popular in France: “They operate with fewer staff who are better qualified and better paid than their English equivalents.

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