In April, I wrote about the government's plan to review staff ratios in nurseries, explaining why this would be damaging to quality and do nothing to reduce the cost of childcare. I naively expressed confidence that the government would listen to the views of providers in the sector and quietly drop the proposal, but today they launched an online consultation which closes on 16th September, which can be completed by ‘anybody with an interest in childcare’ including, of course, parents and carers.

The questionnaire asks if you agree or disagree with the proposal to change staff: child ratios for two-year-olds from 1:4 to 1:5, and I would strongly urge you to spend five minutes to complete the questionnaire, and to reject the proposal. If you have ever looked after a group of two-year-olds, I don’t need to explain the rationale, but the idea that it would result in any reduction in fees, even if your child’s nursery adopted those ratios is, to be honest, ludicrous. What is certain, however, is that it would make the sector’s recruitment crisis even worse!

There is further nonsense in the questionnaire – suggesting that staff working towards qualifications should be counted as qualified. I’m too stunned to even begin to explain why that’s a ridiculous proposal, and why it demeans qualifications. The only proposal that seems reasonable to me is to have an explicit requirement for children eating to be within sight and hearing of a member of staff (it just raises the obvious question – why would any nursery NOT supervise meal and snack times, when there have been well publicised tragedies involving children choking?).

The government are clearly not listening to childcare providers, so I would urge anyone reading this to add their voice to the groundswell, to ask them to stop attempting to fix the affordability crisis in childcare with a no-cost dilution of quality. The comparisons with Scotland are really not helpful, as they have more funding, and more qualified staff. It is glaringly obvious that the government are just looking for a cheap fix to a really serious problem. If they really wanted to solve the problems in the sector, they just need to start listening – this consultation is just stalling on the action that is desperately needed, but every little helps, so please do add your voice:

And we were very proud to hear our chair of trustees on the BBC today, explaining why the proposal is so misguided.  Read more here, if you missed her interview.