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HAVE YOUR SAY: Are new childcare proposals a good thing?
10:00am Tuesday 29th January 2013 in News
Nurseries and childminders will be allowed to look after more children as part of government efforts to cut childcare costs.
Staff are to be able to take charge of six two-year-olds rather than four while the ratio for under-ones will go up from three to four.
Education minister Liz Truss is outlining the changes today as part of reforms that will see higher qualifications required of those caring for pre-schoolers. Read the whole plan here.
Many nursery owners and childminders are against the plans, saying they will lower the quality of care without significantly lowering costs.
A story in Nursery World magazine revealed growing levels of opposition to the reduction of ratios, calling it "rearranging the deckchairs", while one nursery owner wrote to the Guardian to say many mothers would give up work rather than use a nursery with fewer staff.
Britain has some of the highest childcare costs in the world, meaning many mothers with two or more children find it does not make financial sense to work.
Ms Truss will tell an event at the Policy Exchange think-tank that the Government wants to introduce graduate-level Early Years teachers.
An Early Years Educator qualification will also be created, requiring practical experience and at least a C grade in English and maths GCSE.
And she is to insist that better wages are needed to improve the system in England, pointing out that nursery staff only earn £6.60 per hour on average.
Hailing the example of France, Ms Truss will say that easing rules on ratios can give nurseries the ''headroom to pay higher salaries''.
''We have learned from other countries that deliver better-value and better-quality childcare,'' she will say.
'We have looked across Europe and beyond. The aim is not to replicate another country's approach but to learn from and apply best practice.
''Other European countries have taken a different approach on ratios. They think that the quality of staff is the most important thing.
''Whereas in England nursery staff may look after no more than three one-year-olds, in France they can be responsible for five - and there are no limits in Denmark, Germany or Sweden.
''That is why we are encouraging nurseries to use their professional judgment and enjoy greater flexibility.
''Where there is an Early Years Educator working with children, we plan to allow ratios for two-year-olds to rise from four children per adult to six children per adult, and for ones-and-under to rise from three children per adult to four children per adult.
''Ratios for three-year-olds and over would remain at eight or thirteen children per adult, depending on whether a qualified graduate was present.''
A childminder would be able to look after two babies rather than one and four under-fives rather than three, according to the proposals.
The National Childminding Association is against the plans. Read why here. One childminder has started a petition which is just 30 signatures short of the 10,000 required to make the Government consider it.
Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said the plans threatened child safety and would not reduce costs.
''This Government has created an affordability crisis by cutting support and pushing up costs for parents. Watering down quality is the wrong way to try to deal with the problem they've caused,'' he said.
''Experts are warning this could threaten child safety and won't reduce costs. Parents will be worried.
''With a £1,700 toddler tax for families with two children, and 401 fewer children's centres, parents are being locked into inflation-busting cost rises while the quality of childcare is undermined.''