Cutting nursery staff ratios ‘may reduce care quality and risk children’s safety’

Attempts to make nurseries more affordable by letting staff look after more children at a time may reduce the quality of care, campaigners have said. The government is considering cutting staff-to-child ratios as a way of reducing childcare costs to parents. This is from the BBC…

The Preschool Learning Alliance says its members fear such a change would risk children’s safety and well-being.

Chief executive Neil Leitch added such a move was unlikely “to reduce the financial burden on parents”.

Earlier this year, a report by Elizabeth Truss MP, now education minister, said staffing ratios in nurseries should be reduced to cut red tape and costs.

Her proposal is being considered by the Childcare Commission, which has been charged by the government with finding ways to make childcare more affordable and reduce any unnecessary regulatory burdens on childcare providers.

For children over three years old, the rules currently stipulate one member of staff for every eight children. 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 two children.

A Preschool Learning Alliance survey of more than 500 childcare providers found the vast majority (94%) did not believe they would be able to maintain their current quality of service if staffing levels were reduced.

One of the organisation’s key concerns is that the government is not providing enough money to fully fund the 15 hours per week free nursery education that it guarantees all three- and four-year-olds in England.

Only 10% of day nurseries and pre-school managers who responded to the survey said they received adequate funding to cover the cost of these free places – a sharp drop from the 38% who, in a similar survey in May this year, said the cost was fully covered.

Three-quarters (75%) of respondents to the latest survey said the shortfall in funding meant they would be unlikely to reduce their childcare fees even if the government lowered staff-to-child ratios.

The government plans to extend free entitlement to 260,000 disadvantaged two-year-olds by September 2014.

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