Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Changes to Childcare Ratios

As most of you know that read this I used to own two day nurseries, caring for over 70 children at any one time, with around 30 staff members give or take. It was never about making big bucks, but about the quality of childcare. Don't get me wrong, we had a good lifestyle, but the nursery didn't charge the earth and staff were paid fair wages - well I hope so! The Day Care Advisers at the LA always said what we didn't have in expensive equipment we more than made up for in the love we gave the children.

Slowly though the whole experience became harder. The first huge change was when Ofsted took over and the rapport that had been built up with the local Day Care Department disappeared overnight. When Joseph was 5 weeks old I was already back at work and he became seriously ill. I telephoned Day Care and the Manager came and worked in the nursery for the day so that I could be with Joseph! When Ofsted were approached with staffing issues, they didn't know me, or my settings, and all you got was 'well, you'll have to shut the setting.' Tres helpful.......

It became harder and harder to find good quality staff but I consider myself lucky in being quite astute with recognising potential - and I had some amazing Managers supporting me (there's the astuteness ;) ).

Anyhow enough reminiscing. My thoughts on the proposed changes :
  • Changing childcare ratios in the younger ages. Now I know some fab childminders and they may feel having 4 under 5 is okay, let's be honest I had the 3 boys under 3.5 at one time and managed. With different ages, you may have 2 babies asleep, one curled up with a blanket and books and you can spend time with number 4.However, never having been a childminder I don't feel competent to comment further, BUT ....
  • I defy anyone to tell me that 2 members of staff with 12 two to three year old's is beneficial to either children or staff. It was always the room staff wanted to move around in as it is so exhausting. For me it was always my favourite. They're learning to walk and talk. To feed themselves. To push boundaries. Let's not forget temper tantrums! Toileting, which follows on nicely .....
  • So as a CCP (childcare person to save my poor typing fingers!) you are going to spend a lot of time taking children to the toilet in the 2-3 room. Does that mean you are leaving ONE member of staff with 11 children while you do this? I know some nurseries will have more than 2 staff regardless of the ratio requirements, but let's not kid ourselves here, there's going to be a lot of owners out there who have already worked out how much better off financially they are going to be with less staff. The stories I used to hear - and my own experiences from temping - makes me shudder at the thought.
  • Which leads onto finances. How, in any way on earth, are parents going to be better off? If ratios in settings have been worked out on floor space then nothing can change. Did I just put ideas into the Childcare Minister's head?? If the setting did have a bit extra space, but having extra children didn't work out financially viable when measured against having to employ another member of staff. Well, problem now solved! So that lovely room with lots of space may suddenly have 4 more children but no extra staff. And do we truly and honestly believe that nurseries will say 'Hey, I know, let's reduce the costs to parents instead of pocketing - sorry, investing - the extra money.'
  • Of course, let's not forget that you need better qualified staff. This has always been my biggest bone of contention EVER!!! When I did my NNEB, which in my mind they should never have got rid of, you either had to have English O level Grade C or pass the college entrance exam. This seemed fair. How would I cope with 2 years of full time studying. Read to children. Write records. Prepare notes for parents evening. Well, the list is endless, without a good grasp of the English language. Not everyone though is academically strong (we'll talk about Maths in a minute), but does this mean they will not be a good CCP? Um, no. In the early days of the nurseries some of my best CCP were people that weren't qualified but had an amazing ability to nurture and care for children. Then of course everything started changing. As it should if it's progression, but not just for the sake of trying to look like you're doing something positive and useful. I spent quite a few years on a local children's ward. We had dedicated cleaners - auxiliaries - nursery nurses - SEN's - and SRN's. And it worked. Then it all changed. Why? Everyone had a role that they excelled at? I digress. Over the years there became more and more emphasis on the need to qualify, I lost a few good team members because of that.....
  • Which leads to Maths GCSE Grade 3 - why???? It's no secret I walked away from school with a U - Unclassified - for my Maths O Level. I'm not ashamed of that fact, it is what it is. I don't like numbers and I have no desire to know that (a + b) * (c+d) gives you , well who gives a "£$£" Want to do a science A level, maths degree, or any profession that you need it I get that. I don't get the logic to need it for childcare. I can use the main operations (addition etc). I managed to complete tax returns, work out staff wages monthly, budget and forecast etc etc etc. But under the new proposed ruling I wouldn't have been given the opportunity to qualify. Total crap.
  • Actually, at the college where I taught, all students are given Key Skills tests to make sure they were a certain level, they didn't need the qualification, or be made to gain the qualification.
  • And don't get me started on 1:4 for babies or I shall have to put my tutor hat on and start lecturing about attachment theories!
  • Oh, just remembered another thing. The Minister made of point of comparing us to other European countries that have lower ratios - shame she can't use the same finger pointing system to show that a lot of the European countries don't even let their children start school till around 6. Four and one day is too young in my book. 
  • And, sorry, this was on the news this morning, they want children to start learning employment skills from the age of 3? All I can think to say is WTF!
So, please hunt out a petition to sign - speaking of which, they really ought to all pool their petitions. And maybe a petition to get the Minister to spend a whole week from 8am to 6pm in a room of 12 two to three year old's with one other member of staff which may make her realise what a crap proposal it is! Actually, don't know why I use the word proposal, when has anyone with a bit of power ever admitted they were wrong?


  1. Majority of Childminders are not happy about the proposals either.

    Would really encourage EVERYONE to sign the petition and comment via the consultation.


Love to hear from you. Please leave your thoughts below. Suzanne xx