Being part of young children’s development is an amazing privilege and a huge responsibility.
In my 30 years as a child minder, I’ve seen hundreds come and go and seen the childcare sector develop, professionalise and become one of the the finest in the world. One of the hallmarks of what makes the UK system so good is the personalised, focussed care we can give to children at this crucial stage if their development.
It’s been reported that Liz Truss, the Government minister with responsibility for early years education, is about to announce a proposal that could threaten this world class care. Reports suggest that she will propose increasing the amount of children that a single adult is permitted to care for at once. This could mean that once childminder could be allowed to look after six children under two rather than three. A nursery worker could be responsible for up to eight children rather than the current four.
It doesn’t take a child care expert to work out that this will have a devastating impact on the quality of care that these children might receive. In a single day you may be helping little ones who have specific issues around their development - the trick is to spot those challenges early and deal with them in a personalised and focused way. By doubling ratios, you halve the amount of time available to do that. The child loses out, the parent loses out and the childcare worker loses out by not being able to provide the service they want to.
There is another potential threat here - that while better off parents are able to pay for childcare that sticks to the old ratio system, poorer parents will be forced to pay for lower quality care under the new system. At a time when many people are under increasing financial pressure, introducing a system which directly benefits the better off seems incredibly misguided.
That’s why over six thousand people have signed a petition I started on Change.org urging the government to drop these damaging plans. I just can't see how the child to adult ratio can be doubled without a negative impact on care. The petition is supported by both the National Childminders Association and the Pre-School Learning Alliance - the leading organisations representing child care workers.
Hundreds of parents have left their comments on the petition page. A typical one reads: “As a parent, I know how difficult it can be to look after young children. Eight is a ludicrous proposal. It is potentially fraught with danger for the children.”
I, like many of my colleagues, are parents and grandparents too. We share many people's’ concerns over child care costs and we agree that something needs to be done. However, recent research shows that while many of my colleagues in the sector believe increased ratios will impact on care quality, very few believe it has the potential to reduce costs to parents. More importantly, though, the number one concern here has to be the welfare and development of children. The childcare sector is united in standing against these proposals. We hope the Government is listening.