Child minders and nurseries will be able to double the number of children they look after under plans to cut care bills for working families being considered by the Government.
Elizabeth Truss, the minister with responsibility for childcare, said that she was considering a move to copy French childcare rules where each member of staff can look after up to eight children. In England the limit is just four toddlers.
It is hoped that the move could bring down childcare bills which see parents spending more than a quarter of their income on looking after their children while they are at work.
Writing the on the Conservative Home website Ms Truss said that the UK had the most restrictive adult-child ratios for young children of comparable European countries. She added that changing staff ratios would allow nurseries to pay more and retain good staff.
“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.
“Our ratios put a cap on the salaries staff can be paid because of onerous requirements on numbers. If staff are being paid barely more than minimum wage, nurseries struggle to retain and recruit high quality people.”
She argued that France could provide a model for developing a new system in the UK.
“The French use 'ecoles maternelles' that offer traditional nursery-style teaching by teachers in large groups of three and four-year-olds. They are so well regarded that the French government is now extending the opportunity to attend these schools to disadvantaged two-year-olds.
”The French creches for the under-threes are also in much demand. They operate with fewer staff who are better qualified and better paid than their English equivalents. 40 per cent of staff have to hold a diploma, typically awarded following a year of study after the age of 18, and they are paid over £16,000.
“In England staff are typically paid £13,000 and can be responsible for no more than four toddlers.”
The Government is due to bring forward it’s proposals to reduce the cost of pre-school care in the next few weeks. It is likely to include proposals for more tax breaks to help the cost of paying for nursery care.