My response to government proposals

Elizabeth Truss, Under-Secretary at the Department of Education, is the latest contributor to the conservativehome website,

Her blog, ‘coalition thinking on childcare’ contains the worrying phrase – ‘The French use Écoles Maternelles that offer traditional nursery style teaching by teachers in large groups of 3 and 4 year olds’, to justify the recommendation that we should move from the current staffing ratios of 1 adult to every 4 2-year olds and 1 to 8 for 3-year olds, to possibly 1:18.

She then goes on to suggest that by effectively reducing staffing costs generally (whilst somehow still maintaining quality and levels of care), this will translate into higher salaries for childcare workers enabling providers to attract and retain a higher qualified workforce.

I don’t understand this, I’m afraid. What does she mean by ‘traditional nursery style teaching’? – sitting at desks, with didactic impartation of the 3 Rs maybe?

What happened to learning through play and experience?

and ‘large groups’ – how large?

What happened to meeting individual children’s needs?

I have been to Belgium, Spain, Austria, Italy and Slovenia and witnessed first hand the challenges of 1:28 ratios where 50% of the class do not speak the national language, the emotional and behavioural issues and attempts to integrate children with additional needs. The staff are exhausted.

Maybe we will have ‘larger groups’ but how will we manage to deliver the current curriculum with less staff?

The government faces the difficult challenge of both providing affordable high quality childcare and giving each child effective early years development and education with no investment.  They need to get more people into work, they need to generate growth in the economy, revenue from taxation etc but they also need to provide the best of starts for our nation’s children.

There is consensus on what young children need in terms of love, attention, support, boundaries, metacognition, dispositions and holistic development with an emphasis on language, physical and personal, social and emotional areas. Highly skilled and trained practitioners are needed.

Raising the ratios won’t do it – in my humble opinion.

1 thought on “My response to government proposals

  1. Izzy

    Agreed! The idea of putting a toddler into nursery with only one member of staff for 18 children horrifies me. Even staffing on 1 to 8 for 3 year olds seems rather low and my personal experience is that this can be quite tough on less boisterous children. Thankfully, this ratio tends to be only for short periods in the day so children get valuable attention at other times. I don’t believe that staff could be more capable than those who look after my child, even if they were more qualified. Of course, I do believe they deserve more pay. No amount of qualifications would make it possible to give adequate attention to 18 children. I would probably give up working rather than suffer the consequences of leaving my child in such an ‘unnurturing’ environment.


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