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UK Politics

Top adviser condemns nursery staff shake-up


Plans to increase the number of children nursery staff can look after “make no sense at all” and will “shake the foundations” of early years care, one of the Government’s key advisers on childcare has warned.

Professor Cathy Nutbrown, who reviewed childcare and qualifications for the Government, said changing staff ratios would “dilute” the effects of raising staff quality.

The Government has proposed that statutory ratios should rise from four children per adult to six children per adult for two-year-olds and from three children per adult to four children per adult for those one and under. Ratios for three-year-olds and over would remain at eight or 13 children per adult, depending on whether a qualified graduate was present.

But Professor Nutbrown said that even if staff were better qualified, this would be offset by the extra children they would have to look after. “Watering down ratios regardless of the level of qualifications held by staff is likely to lead to worse, not ‘great’, childcare and will undermine intentions to provide quality early learning experiences,” she said.

“The difference will be too few adults with too many little children; too few moments in the day for a toddler to have uninterrupted time with their key person, and too few early years practitioners to talk and work with parents.

“There is nothing relaxing about the proposal to ‘relax’ ratios. It will lead to stress – for children, for parents and for early years practitioners whatever their title or qualification.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “All the evidence shows that quality and safety are linked to high-quality staff.”