Childminders and nurseries will be able to double the number of children they look after under radical plans to cut care costs for working families.
Ministers want to copy French childcare rules where each member of staff can look after up to eight children. In England the limit is just four toddlers.
Nursery staff would be able to look after more children under plans to cut huge bills for families after the shocking news that mothers with a full-time job need to work for up to four months of the year just to cover childcare.
Education minister Liz Truss described England's adult-to child ratios for nurseries and child minders as 'restrictive' and praised the French system where children are taught in larger groups by better qualified and higher paid staff than in England.
The current rules stipulate one member of staff for every eight children over three years old. For two to three-year-olds, each member of staff should care for no more than four children. And for children aged under two, there should be one member of staff for every three children.
Writing for the website Conservative Home, Ms Truss said. "In England we need to move to a simpler, clearer system that prioritises quality and safety over excessive bureaucracy."
In particular she stressed that other European countries operated successful childcare systems with lower adult to child ratios. She argued that onerous requirements on staff numbers in England 'put a cap on salaries' and meant nurseries struggled to 'retain and recruit high quality people'.
"It is no coincidence that we have the most restrictive adult-child ratios for young children of comparable European countries as well as the lowest staff salaries," she wrote.
She said that French 'ecoles maternelles', where teachers taught large groups of three and four-year-olds, were so well regarded that they were now being opened to disadvantaged two-year-olds.
She added that creches for under-threes were also very popular in France: "They operate with fewer staff who are better qualified and better paid than their English equivalents.
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