UK proposes ratio cuts for 2-year-olds in a bid to save parent’s money – is Aus next?
Proposals to increase the number of two-year-olds cared for per adult in England have attracted strong opposition from many in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, with one major survey finding there is “little appetite” or support among providers to implement the plans.
English Ministers believe their proposals to increase the number of two-year-olds staff can look after from four to five could potentially reduce the cost incurred by families by up to £40 (approximately $70 AUD) per week, for a family paying £265 (approximately $465 AUD) per week for care for their two-year-old – if providers adopt the changes and pass all the savings on to parents.
The announcements follow visits by English children’s minister Will Quince to the Netherlands, Sweden, France and Scotland – whose staff:child ratios for two-year-olds the proposed changes seek to mirror.
Since the plan was announced earlier this year, the proposals to allow one member of staff to care for five two-year-olds rather than the current four, have been widely derided by the early years sector, local news source Nursery World shared.
Many providers have already said that if the changes go ahead they will not implement them, and that it will therefore not make a difference to the cost of childcare for parents.
An Early Years Alliance survey of 9,000 providers found that just two per cent of providers believed that increasing the ratio would result in lower fees.
A number of parenting advocate groups have also campaigned against the change, which they believe will lower the quality of care in settings and lead to safeguarding concerns.
The English Government has now entered a period of consultation around the proposal, seeking views on:
- changing the current statutory minimum staff: child ratios in England for two-year-olds from 1:4 to 1:5;
- allowing childminders (Family Day Care homes) to care for a fourth child under the age of five, providing one is either a sibling of another child they care for, or their own child, whilst continuing to only allow childminders to care for a maximum of six children under the age of eight; and,
- making the Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework (EYFS) explicit that ‘adequate supervision’ while children are eating means that children must be in sight and hearing of an adult.
Purnima Tanuku, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), is adamant the changes won’t make any meaningful difference to the cost of care for providers or parents.
Such change, she said, “can only come from the Government paying the full rate for funded childcare places for children under five”.
Ms Tanuku said she was interested in what calculations had been made to arrive at the saving of 15 per cent which the Government is quoting.
“Many children are coming into early years settings with additional needs having been impacted by COVID restrictions. More children are struggling with language acquisition and with their personal, social and emotional development as a result. This is why now is not the time to be giving young children less support,” she added.
This story was based on a longer form piece prepared by Nursery World, which may be accessed here.
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