Nursery ratios raised to improve standards
The government has announced a new initiative to raise the ratio of children to carers in a bid to improve quality and cut costs. However the carers will only be look after more children if their qualifications meet new standards. Children's Ministers Liz Truss said that the move would make more childcare places available and reduce costs for parents long term.
Critics have warned that the changes could compromise the quality of care. They also warn that the changes are likely to be unpopular with parents and have limited effect on overall costs if childcare.
Statutory ratios for carers per child vary depending on age and setting. Ratios for two-year-olds are set 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 13 children per adult, depending on whether a qualified graduate was present.
Britain has some of the highest childcare costs in the world, with many mothers with two or more children saying it does not make financial sense to work.
An earlier report by Ms Truss suggested the average family spends 27% of their income on childcare.
Ms Truss said childcare professionals should be better qualified in the UK.
"When parents hand their child over to the care of a childminder or nursery, they are not just entrusting them with their child's physical safety, they are also entrusting their child's brain," she said
"With this in mind, it is no longer acceptable that childcare professionals are not required to have a GCSE grade C or above in English and maths."
National Day Nurseries Association chief executive Purnima Tanuku welcomed the commitment made by the government to improve childcare but said the "quality of childcare and early education must not be sacrificed".
She said: "Many parents do not want an increase in the number of children nursery staff are allowed look after. They are worried it will have a negative impact on the individual attention and care their child receives."