Childcare costs will be relaxed in order to lower costs for parents and increase the number of children that a childminder can look after.
The plans would mean that one member of staff could look after and supervise five children under two. Currently, one staff member can look after a maximum of three children.
The average weekly cost of a part-time nursery place for a child under two has risen by a third in the past decade, according to the Family and Childcare Trust. It was £102.05 in 2012 but is now £137.69.
Early years organisations and leaders have responded to the plans.
Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said:
‘We are dismayed by reports that the government plans to relax childcare ratios, and will fully oppose any attempts to do so.
‘Let’s be clear: if the government does attempt to relax ratios, it won’t because they want to help providers or parents. It will because ministers see doing so as a shortcut to fixing the childcare crisis that they created without having to actually invest in the early years sector.
‘Existing adult-child ratios in early years settings are there for a reason: they safeguard young children’s safety and wellbeing, and ensure that they get the best possible care and education. For the government to even consider making such a change would speak volumes about how little they value quality early care and education.
‘When ministers tried to make this change eight years ago, parents and providers united to oppose it. We hope the government isn’t planning to make the same mistake twice.’
Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive of NDNA, said: ‘This is not the first time that relaxing ratios has been proposed when talking about the cost of providing high-quality childcare, however we have not seen anything official along these lines. We are talking about nurseries and childcare providers who are critical to starting children on their educational journeys. Policy decisions affecting children’s early learning and development have to be evidence based, not done by soundbites.
‘Cutting down on staff to child ratios is not the answer to reducing the cost of childcare at a time of staffing crisis and underinvestment from the Government. We can’t fix the challenges faced by the early years sector just by asking staff and nurseries to do more with less.
‘The government’s funding of childcare places has never met the true costs for nurseries and 95% of our members say they are underfunded. This means more costs passed on to parents to meet the government’s shortfalls. That is the area Ministers and officials should be focussing on.’
June O’Sullivan CEO of the London Early Years Foundation added:
‘In essence, the government wants to “level up” by cutting its spend and find ways of reducing costs to voters. If this means increasing the adult to child ratios then, without doubt, it will significantly reduce the time available for staff to spend with each child.
‘This is particularly important for the youngest children, our little babies and two year olds whose welfare and development are closely linked to social interaction and forming secure attachment relationships with adults. I urge our new Education Minister, Will Quince to get to grips with why thoughtful ratios are critical for the wellbeing of children and the ability of staff to really support their learning and development.’