DOWNHAM MARKET: Minister sets out care reform proposals
New proposals for a major overhaul of the rules surrounding childcare have been set out by the local MP this week.
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, who is the children’s minister in the Department for Education, has unveiled a five-point plan, which she claims will provide greater choice for parents.
But opponents fear the changes would undermine standards and even put youngsters’ safety at risk.
At present, nurseries are allowed to look after maximum of three one-year-old children for every adult present, four two-year-olds and either eight or 13 children aged three or over, depending on whether a qualified graduate is present.
But the government wants to raise the maximum ratios for the younger age groups to four and six children respectively, though that would only apply to nurseries who employ more highly qualified staff.
Ms Truss said: “When parents hand their child over to the care of a childminder or nursery they are not just entrusting them with their child’s physical safety; they are also entrusting their child’s brain.
“With this in mind, it is no longer acceptable that childcare professionals are not required to have a GCSE grade C or above in English and Maths.”
She also wants to set up set up childminding agencies, which she claims will help operators set up and reassure parents, make Ofsted the sole inspection body for nurseries and make it easier for schools to offer care services.
The plans have been welcomed by some childcare operators, though critics say they could put the quality of care children receive at risk.
But Ms Truss said the reforms would help to raise standards for children, while also reducing costs for parents in the long term.
“Parents want a choice of quality home based care, quality nursery care or a combination of the two. More flexibility is required.
“I have met with a childminding couple who felt the ratios were so restrictive that even if they ran out of milk and needed to pop to the shop for 30 minutes, the children had to go with them as to leave any behind would have exceeded the adult to child ratios.
“A nursery in Emneth was keen to work with childminders to provide a support service, particularly relevant in rural areas like South West Norfolk, but this system was not in place.
“Our proposals for overhauling childcare qualifications, having early years teachers, and child-minding agencies, introducing more flexibility underpinned by a robust inspection regime, will provide this.”
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 14 C
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Temperature: 4 C to 10 C
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