Headlines: March 26th, 2013

Concerns about reform proposals to reduce the child to staff ratio, not to upgrade staff qualifications and to cut councils out of assessment processes have emerged from a new survey of frontline care networks.

The survey from the children’s charity National Children’s Bureau, gathered the views of the early year’s networks, including staff from local authority early years teams, managers and practitioners from nursery settings, alongside childminders and parents.

The findings suggest that the government may need to rethink plans to overhaul the childcare system as set out in the ‘More Great Childcare’ report.

Findings from the survey revealed that 95 per cent of respondents are concerned about increasing childcare ratios, saying that practitioners caring for children aged two or under should not be looking after a greater number of children. Similarly, 80 per cent felt that the ratios for under fives should also remain as they are. Suggested changes would see both these ratios raised to one adult/staff member to four children.

Dr Hilary Emery, Chief Executive of National Children’s Bureau said: “The message coming from the early years sector is that whilst there is agreement that the government needs to act in order to make childcare more affordable, there are widely held fears that allowing providers to take on more children, in the same space with the same number of staff, could put children’s welfare at risk and won’t necessarily save parents any more money.”

She added:“We welcome the support for the development of the early years workforce, to ensure the highest quality provision. However, the report reflects concerns that the proposed new Early Years Teacher qualification will not lead to Qualified Teacher Status and give parity with other teachers as Professor Cathy Nutbrown recommended in her expert review for government. ”

The survey also showed a concern that the government proposals would mean Ofsted becoming the‘sole arbiter of quality’. Many of those ‘on the ground’ feel that local authorities should also provide quality improvement and support functions, with 80 per cent of respondents fearing slipping standards if local authorities were relieved of their current duty to carry out childcare sufficiency assessments every three years.