Nursery plans 'will hit quality of care'

Oxford Mail: Tiny Toes nursery manager Louise Rose, left, nursery owner Margaret Webster and Princess-Ivorhy Jasmin.  Picture: OX57063 Antony Moore Buy this photo » Tiny Toes nursery manager Louise Rose, left, nursery owner Margaret Webster and Princess-Ivorhy Jasmin. Picture: OX57063 Antony Moore

LETTING nursery staff look after more children will affect the care youngsters receive, Oxfordshire nurseries have warned.

One nursery owner branded the plans, which would allow single nursery staff to be in charge of up to four babies or up to six children under three, as “ludicrous”.

Children’s Minister Liz Truss yesterday announced plans to change the adult to child ratios for nurseries and childminders as a way of making childcare more affordable.

But Oxfordshire nurseries raised serious concerns about the proposal, and feared a two-tier system of child care would emerge.

Margaret Webster, 55, who owns Tiny Toes Day Nurseries in Steventon and Abingdon, said: “Good nurseries will not increase the staff-child ratio. Those that do will have less staff, more children and more workload on staff who are already overloaded. Children will suffer and nobody will be better off.”

She said even if the proposals were introduced, she would not change ratios in her nurseries as they are not expected to be compulsory.

She said: “If my staff had to look after four babies, they would be frazzled by the end of the day.

“Trying to save money by altering staff ratios is a ludicrous idea.”

As well as caring for children, staff have to make regular observations and report on each child’s day, and provide feedback to parents.

Anna Thorne, 46, is manager of Donnington Doorstep Children’s Centre in Oxford, which is set to take over the management of neighbouring Donnington Playgroup.

She said: “With ratios as they are, it’s very difficult to look after that number of young children effectively and give them the sort of care they need. I don’t think it will make childcare cheaper.

“Those parents who can afford to pay will get better quality childcare, while parents on lower incomes will end up with poorer quality childcare.”

Natalie Greatbatch, owner of Stepping Stones Nursery in Glanville Road, East Oxford, said she did not see how one person could possibly look after six two-year-olds. She said: “They are at an age where they need a lot of attention. How can you feed four babies at the same time?”

But Ros Marshall, chief executive of Kids Unlimited, which has nurseries in Oxfordshire, said relaxing staff ratios would offer nurseries flexibility to focus on qualified staff and high standards of care.

At Busy Bees, which has a nursery in Bicester, chief executives John Woodward and Marg Randles said they welcomed more flexibility.

Ms Truss said easing rules on ratios can give nurseries the “headroom to pay higher salaries”.

She insisted better wages were needed to improve the system in England, pointing out that nursery staff only earn £6.60 per hour on average.

“We have learned from other countries that deliver better-value and better-quality childcare,” she said.

“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.

“I have been particularly struck by the high status and trust afforded to childcare professionals in continental Europe. In particular, I am impressed by much of what happens in France.”

PROPOSALS

  • THE current ratio for children under two in nurseries is 1 adult: 3 children. Under the proposals it would be 1:4.
  • The current ratio for children aged under three in nurseries is 1:4. The proposed new ratio is 1:6.
  • The current ratio for childminders outside a nursery setting is 1:3 under fives, only one of which can be under the age of one. The proposed ratio is 1:4 under fives including up to two babies aged under one.
  • The new ratios would only be allowed if a member of staff with a new, early years educator qualification which is set to be of A-Level equivalent standard, was present. Otherwise former ratios would apply.
  • It is not planned to change the nursery ratio for children aged three or over, which is currently 1:8 or 1:13 depending on whether a qualified graduate is present.

Comments (4)

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1:28pm Wed 30 Jan 13

interested123 says...

l have no doubt that the larger companies will use this as an opportunity to just make more money for themselves, with no increase in staff pay, except at the top end and no decrease in fees for parents.
They seemed to have some good lobbyists working for them.
Anyone with an ounce of commonsense would know that the less children you have to look after, the better you can care for them. Imagine trying to change the nappies of 6 toddlers at the same time.
l have no doubt that the larger companies will use this as an opportunity to just make more money for themselves, with no increase in staff pay, except at the top end and no decrease in fees for parents. They seemed to have some good lobbyists working for them. Anyone with an ounce of commonsense would know that the less children you have to look after, the better you can care for them. Imagine trying to change the nappies of 6 toddlers at the same time. interested123

1:49pm Wed 30 Jan 13

Lord Palmerstone says...

“Those parents who can afford to pay will get better quality childcare, while parents on lower incomes will end up with poorer quality childcare.”
Those parents who can afford to pay employ nannies. Everyone else is the same-it takes too big a chunk out of your income. Why it is so expensive in England is not obvious. Car prices used to be the same. I hope these changes make child care costs manageable.
“Those parents who can afford to pay will get better quality childcare, while parents on lower incomes will end up with poorer quality childcare.” Those parents who can afford to pay employ nannies. Everyone else is the same-it takes too big a chunk out of your income. Why it is so expensive in England is not obvious. Car prices used to be the same. I hope these changes make child care costs manageable. Lord Palmerstone

2:04pm Wed 30 Jan 13

online_reader says...

I use a nursery, which I can barely afford but it's a choice I made and my child is happy and sociable; much more so I think than I was at home with my mother, despite her best intentions. I want my child to have lots to do and to mix with lots of people. For those reasons I wouldn't employ a nanny even if I could afford it.
I use a nursery, which I can barely afford but it's a choice I made and my child is happy and sociable; much more so I think than I was at home with my mother, despite her best intentions. I want my child to have lots to do and to mix with lots of people. For those reasons I wouldn't employ a nanny even if I could afford it. online_reader

9:20pm Wed 30 Jan 13

Andrew:Oxford says...

If the parent(s) are paying less for care, will the child have a better homelife with parent(s) who are are less stressed financially?
If the parent(s) are paying less for care, will the child have a better homelife with parent(s) who are are less stressed financially? Andrew:Oxford

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