Care standard worry over nursery changes

Changes to childcare ratios.

Changes to childcare ratios. - Credit: Archant

NURSERY leaders in North Somerset are concerned about new changes being brought in to make childcare more affordable for parents.

The Government wants to offer better choice for parents and reduce costs so more can return to work, while improving qualifications for staff.

The Department for Education (DFE) has outlined plans including changing ratios so one member of staff will be able to look after four one-year-olds instead of three and six two-year-olds instead of four.

The DFE believes current staffing rules drive up costs for parents and mean lower pay for staff. But childcare providers are worried the quality of care will drop as a result of the new ratios.

Andrew McCarthy, who owns Golden Valley House nursery in Nailsea and Swiss House in Weston, said: “We don’t think it’s a very good idea. Having less carers per child can’t be good for the quality of childcare and I think standards will fall.

“Having breaks will be more difficult and I think accidents could increase as staff will have more children to supervise.

“They say staff can look after more children if they have higher qualifications, but they haven’t got more hands. When you’ve got three babies screaming at once, qualifications can’t help.

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“People in this industry don’t get paid much so it’s basically making their jobs harder.

“If you pay them more it defeats the object of having the new legislation because you then won’t be able to lower fees for parents.”

It is also estimated the changes will only save families around £3.50 per week.

John Woodward from Busy Bees, which has nurseries in Portishead and Weston, said: “In our opinion the childcare voucher system is the most effective way of helping working parents save money.

“Raising the cap from £55 to £75 per week would mean a saving of over £1,200 per parent, per year, which would be a considerable financial benefit for our working families.”

Ratios will also change for childminders and childminding agencies will be set up to help childminders with business practicalities.

Early years teachers will be introduced and below graduate staff must now train to level three.

Schools will be encouraged to teach younger children to provide more choice for parents and Ofsted will take over early years inspections instead of the local authority.

The new changes are expected to come in later this year and nurseries will be able to decide whether they adopt the new ratios.