Government to Consult on Ratios Increase

Female teacher sitting at table in play room with three kindergarten children constructing, selective focus

Government to Consult on Rations Increase

Despite opposition within the sector, the government seems increasingly determined to make changes to the compulsory staff:child ratios in England. It has now emerged that they plan for England to adopt Scotland’s 1:5 ratio in relation to 2 year olds, instead of England’s current requirement of 1:4. In response to a petition on the website the government said it would open a consultation on the proposal this summer, and promised to engage fully with the sector.

While there remains significant opposition to this change, with Neil Leitch of the Early Years Alliance terming it “ludicrous, pointless, and potentially dangerous” the proposal is less radical than was previously feared when Will Quince, the Childcare Minister, first started talking about ‘deregulation’. The fact that the more relaxed ratio matches that which applies in Scotland may offer some reassurance that children’s safety will not be compromised. However, there are some significant differences between childcare provision in England and that north of the border; England having more large settings, and a much greater proportion of private sector providers.

Children’s safety must, of course, be the paramount consideration ahead of any changes. It will also be relevant though whether the proposal will have the impact the government hopes for. The principle behind the policy is to help alleviate childcare funding concerns and ultimately lead to cost savings for parents. A less radical proposal may be less worrying from a safety perspective, but it may also mean the financial impact is lessened.

It is apparent that after several years of inaction, the government has childcare in its sights for some policy changes, perhaps with an eye to the general election that is likely less than two years away. There is much to be gained politically in getting childcare policy right in the eyes of the electorate, but it will be the sector that has to deliver any major changes, and their voices must be heard loud and clear in the coming debate.

You can find the petition and the government’s response here

You can read Morton Michel’s comments on the proposal can be found here.