I am a parent of two boys and an early years specialist and have worked within the early years sector for over twenty –six years.
I am writing to you because I want to raise your attention to a government proposal that might affect your child’s learning and development opportunities if you use childcare.
You may have heard that the Minister for Childcare, Ms Truss, is proposing changing the adult to child ratios in early years settings. For daycare settings this will mean that for your children who are aged two – three there will be one adult for six children and within home based settings childminders will be able to have up to four children aged five and under.
The majority of early years settings, academics and experts are against these higher ratios as, like me, they care about your children and the negative impact this will have on their learning and development. One provider said to me recently. “This will be like conveyor belt childcare, there will be poor interactions and it will not be quality care.” She went on to add, “We currently operate below ratio in our baby room with one adult to two babies (current legal requirement one adult to three babies), I believe this is what babies need and parents sending their child to my setting also agree. Mark my word, I will not be changing my ratio, irrespective of what the Government says. The proposed French Ecole Maternelle seems more adult directed, with children sitting still for long periods of time and from what we know about child development, children learn through, play, exploring and investigating their environment.” Via social media, there have been providers who also echo this statement that they will not be changing their ratios. Hence, their fees will remain the same.
Unfortunately, if these proposals go ahead, it will create a two-tier system with parents making impossibly difficult decisions regarding their child’s care; do they pay more for more adults or pay less for less adults?
Every child deserves the best start in their early years regardless of their parent’s ability to pay. This is my professional opinion and research indeed informs us that this is so and that quality childcare with adults, who are able to give children positive interactions, ensures that children do better in the long term.
The Government should not be even considering changing the ratios as a way to get more parents into work and thinking that this will make quality childcare cheaper.
Young children need attention and ‘snuggle in’ times, with staff who are tuned into their personal needs. The more children in an adult’s care the fewer opportunities there will be for this. I remember when I worked directly with two year olds, especially when they woke up from a sleep and needing time to ‘come around’ and so rightly needed ‘snuggle in’ time; I cannot even imagine being able to ‘snuggle’ with six two year olds. Note, that Ms Truss also proposes that if a practitioner is a graduate they should be able to look after more children but he or she won’t have any more arms for snuggling!
Ms Truss is to be commended in looking at the childcare sector and the range of issues that impact on you as parents, providers, staff and your children.
However I believe that Ms Truss needs to press the pause button and continue with the debate to identify solutions and to speak with providers; primarily looking at what the Government do indeed spend on childcare, how they can reduce any unnecessary spending and making sure that the sector is funded appropriately, in order to make quality childcare affordable to you.
I would therefore ask you to the support the sector with this and make your concerns heard, via writing to Ms Truss and your local MP.
Please can I direct you to this petition that has been set up against the increase in ratios.
Click on the link to sign:
Thanks in advance
CC: Ms Truss