Welcome to the March child care blog!
There’s currently much debate over proposed changes to the adult to child ratios in early years settings, which have recently been announced by the Government as part of their More Great Childcare report. If the changes go ahead, one member of nursery or pre-school staff could find themselves expected to look after six children aged two years (instead of the current maximum of four), or four babies aged one year or under (up from the current permitted maximum of three).
Childminders would be able to care for four children under five years (instead of the current three) and two babies aged one year or under (up from the current one) – a possible total of six very young children at the same time.
There are wide concerns within the sector that the proposed ratio changes will impact considerably on child safety, with staff less able to supervise children effectively and safeguard their physical well being. There are also concerns that staff will have less time to spend with and support children on a one-to-one basis, adversely affecting the way in which their emotional and educational needs are met.
The Government intends for the proposed changes to come into force as soon as this September. However, there is currently a Government consultation on the proposed changes, which closes on 25 March. So this is the perfect time for staff and learners alike to research and discuss the issues, then have their own individual say by completing the consultation online at
http://www.education.gov.uk/aboutdfe/departmentalinformation/consultations/a00220966/early-educ-childcare-staff-deploy . For learners, there is the additional welcome opportunity to understand how changes to early years national policy evolve, and to become aware of how important it is to stay up to date with developments, and to actively take part in shaping the future provision for our children.
As part of the research process, it’s well worth learners looking into the thoughts of our prominent national early years organisations. Many have spoken out against the new ratio proposals, including the National Day Nursery Association, the Pre-School Learning Alliance and the National Childminding Association. A little research will also reveal various petitions to halt the changes circulating online – the comments recorded on them by organisations and practitioners also make informative reading.
The consultation asks for opinions on how to best link proposed ratio changes to qualifications, as under current proposals, only early years providers employing a certain proportion of people with higher qualifications would be allowed to make the ratio changes. Criteria under consideration includes nurseries being required to have 100 per cent of staff qualified to a least Level 3, or having at least one graduate in a setting plus 70 per cent of other staff qualified to at least Level 3, or having the new ratios based on the individuals working with children – so a staff member with a Level 3 qualification could care for more children than a colleague without the qualification. This is all extremely relevant to current early years learners.