UK Government - Department for Education: Leave our early years ratios alone.
Increasing the number of children per adult in an early years setting is likely to put the wellbeing, health, safety and education of our youngest and most vulnerable children under threat.
On 11th January 2013 we asked early years professionals including childminders on the Childminding Forum www.childmindingforum.co.uk and Facebook page ‘Childminders’ www.facebook.com/childminders for their comments to the question:
‘Do you think childminders having higher ratios will improve outcomes for the children... and lower costs for parents as suggested by recent Government reports?’
We very quickly received almost 100 comments, all telling us that early years professionals do not want to compromise children’s outcomes or put their safety at risk by taking on more children.
For this reason, the Childminding Forum are working to lobby government via this petition.
We believe that the Government and Ofsted are working together to put the wellbeing, health, safety and education of our youngest and most vulnerable children under threat.
We believe that Government proposals to increase child per adult ratios will quite probably lead to some early years settings taking on more children than at present, possibly without the extra support, staffing, space and knowledge that they need to meet the children’s needs effectively on a day-to-day basis... and that this will put outcomes for children and their health, safety and wellbeing at risk.
We believe that there is some misinformed notion within government that if ratios are increased the cost of childcare for parents will come down. We all know that if ratios are increased we will have to buy more resources, provide extra food, purchase bigger cars and buggies, buy more equipment, work much harder every day, complete more paperwork in our already dwindling family time, pay higher insurance costs, pay more tax and national insurance, make changes to our premises to remain commercially viable... and much more... all of which will quite probably increase rather than lower our fees.
We believe that the suggestion of raising child per adult ratios will make our provisions completely unsustainable. The vast majority of childminders already work for well below the minimum wage and few childminders, nurseries, pre-schools and other providers are full to capacity. We wonder where the government foresee this influx of children coming from to make the new ratios sustainable.
We are responsible for ensuring the next generation have the very best opportunities available to them. Increasing ratios does not put the children's interests first and will only lead to lower standards and less one on one time causing a potential significant detriment to a child's life chances.
We believe that young children’s early years experiences must not be compromised by government policy as has happened so many times in the past.
NOW is the time for ALL early years professionals including childminders, nursery and pre-school providers AND parents to come together and fight these proposals before the law is changed and outcomes for our children are put under threat.
The voice of the childminder
I have been working with young children in the capacity of a childminder for the last 19 years and during that time I have supported the individual needs of many different children from my home. I provide a caring home-from-home environment with lots of opportunities for one-to-one play and the small ratios mean I can offer each child individualised care, learning and attention.
The majority of childminders to whom I speak say that they are happy with current ratios and do not feel there is any need for an increase - especially now they can follow the EYFS requirements and write their own exceptions with a simple risk assessment.
Sarah, Childminder, Cheshire
What about ‘bad days’ when everyone is feeling tired, under the weather, a little bit grumpy or just plain contrary? It’s hard enough on a ‘bad day’ with 3 children - we all go out for a walk or run around the garden and get some fresh air. How would that work if we had more children... including maybe 2 babies... and even more chances of ‘bad days’? We only have one pair of hands.
Kathryn, Childminder, Surrey
How would we go on our regular outings? Is it really practical to have a double buggy, 2 toddlers holding on and a baby in a sling? Who is going to pay for planning applications, change of use on our houses, refuse collections, higher business rates etc because we are classed as a business? What about the extra food and how are we meant to follow the food guidance of healthy eating for under 5s and keep all the children safe while cooking if we have a teething toddler and a baby with separation anxiety and 2 or more other children to care for at the same time? How do you get 5 children safely up and down stairs to wash their hands before eating? The day-to-day practicalities of caring for multiple children have really have not been thought through.
Our ratios are low so we can provide quality care with time for nurturing, loving, safety, playing and learning.
Joy, Childminder, South Yorkshire
It is hard work being a childminder, being on your own with up to 3 little ones under 4 all day. I certainly don't feel it would be sensible to encourage us to take on more children than that. I wouldn't take them on because I know my limitations but I know some childminders who would gladly care for 4 and 5 children under the age of 5 - which is fine until something goes horribly wrong.
Nigel, Childminder, Greater Manchester
The voice of the nursery
We are 2 nursery workers who work in an area where a large number of children are learning English as an additional language. We have to give them focussed care and small ratios to support their language development and make sure they get the care and attention they need. It would worry me if ratios were increased and our managers decided to take on more children because we wouldn't be certain we could keep them all safe.
Hayley, Nursery worker, Bedfordshire
The voice of the parent
I don’t want to see my childminder looking after lots more children. If I wanted that I would send my child to pre-school to get his funded sessions. He is SEN and I want him to benefit from the small ratios he gets with his childminder.
Helen, Parent, Yorkshire
I would be very worried about safety if my childminder was on her own with more than 3 young children at a time. What about if there was a fire? How would they all get out safely and where would she put them?
Charlotte, Parent, Cheshire
I cannot see how nurseries will be able to lower their costs if they take on more children - won’t it cost them more? I am not sure I want them to take on more children with the same amount of staff either they are always too busy to talk to me for longer than a few minutes as it is.
Julie, Parent, Cheshire
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