As someone who employs 200 people across various childcare businesses, from nannies to nursery staff, I feel passionately about the statement made by Liz Truss this morning about the changes to ratios proposed by the government, as well as the debates that will ensue.
This is an announcement that has been a long time coming and has created much debate in anticipation of what will be in the proposal. Today we have been 'officially' let in on the secret - although to be fair most of us knew what was coming and have had time to digest the possibilities.
Childcare in the UK is very heavily subsidised, ultimately by us tax payers, in various over-complicated ways (thanks Gordon). And yet it remains expensive and often unaffordable for many. We all know that nursery staff, given the responsibilities they have and jobs they do, are under-paid. We have an industry of individuals who are well qualified and who are getting peanuts to provide quality care for our children.
Looking at ratios, and in some cases daring to suggest that they be relaxed, isn't only sensible; it's essential. The quality of nursery workers is the most important consideration for parents by a distance and there's an obvious link between ratios, how much nursery owners can afford to pay and how many good childcarers are lost to the industry every year to marginally better paying jobs. It's a tragedy.
As I sit here and listen to the differing sides of the argument, I think we need to change our field of focus and concentrate on ensuring quality of care. We need to 'Trust in Truss' and see where this change takes us.
The proposed changes don't just see an increase in the number of children one staff member can look after, they also imply an increase in the qualifications required to be in a position of responsibility with children. When this is in place, we'll be offered a system that provides children with better care and at a lower cost to parents.
In a world dominated by text speak and tweets, making sure that those entrusted with educating our kids from a young age are well educated themselves can't be a bad thing! Putting these improvements in place before children reach full time schooling should help our kids put their best foot forward.
Having children with a French wife, I have experienced the childcare provided in France, and am happy to see the proposal bring us closer in line with other European countries. It's not about reinventing the wheel but learning from those who are already there, and making it work for us.
As long as our children are provided with good care, by qualified individuals we should see a better situation for all. From my position as a parent and a provider giving nurseries a bit more leeway on ratios is absolutely the right approach. Ultimately that will lead to better paid jobs, better quality and more affordable childcare.
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