After-school childcare ratios to change


Childcare Minister Liz Truss has announced plans to scrap the present 1:8 staff-child ratio in after-school clubs, and bring it in line with teacher-child ratios in infant schools.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said the ratios would be left up to head teachers to decide, but that the maximum staff-to-child ratio would reflect the infant class size limit of one qualified teacher to 30 children.

The plans include further proposals to free providers and schools from the burden of red tape and form filling tied to registration of breakfast- and after-school clubs.

There will also be a relaxation of what is expected from such clubs in terms of the way they educate the four-year-olds attending them. Currently they are expected to conform to guidance in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

But childcare groups have reacted angrily to the plans.

The National Day Nurseries Association's chief executive, Purnima Tanuku, said: "We have strong objections to the removal of the current ratios and qualified staff in out-of-school care for five- to seven-year-olds.

"The present ratio is 1:8 with a qualified manager, the new proposals just states 'sufficient numbers of staff'.

"A good provider with strong management will have a real understanding of what quality means, but a weaker setting may not.

"While we understand DfE wants to allow some flexibility by allowing providers to use professional discretion, it makes it a grey area, open to misinterpretation.

"Parents need to know the care they choose for their young children is properly regulated and monitored and for that to happen, the balance between regulation and flexibility must be correct."

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said: "there was overwhelming opposition from parents, the sector and anybody who has studied child development."

The announcement came as the DfE published its consultation on the regulation of childcare. The department intends to amend the regulations in April, with a view to introducing the new regulations in September.