Government proposes staff ratio changes for out-of-school care

By Joe Lepper

| 14 February 2014

The National Day Nurseries Association has criticised government plans to lower staff ratios for five- to seven-year-olds in out-of-school care.

Changes to regulations on out-of-school clubs should enable children to spend more time playing and having fun.

In its response to the childcare regulation consultation, the government said it plans to scrap the existing 1:8 staff-to-child ratio for children aged five to seven, as well as a requirement for a qualified childcare manager to be present.

Instead, ministers want to more closely align the number of staff in such settings with requirements for maintained schools and only have “sufficient staff” for a class of 30 children.

But NDNA chief executive Purnima Tanuku is concerned the proposals are too vague both in terms of the number and quality of staff present at out-of-school sessions.

She said: “A good provider with strong management will have a real understanding of what quality means, but a weaker setting may not. While we understand the Department for Education wants to allow some flexibility by allowing providers to use professional discretion it makes it a grey area, open to misinterpretation.”

Government plans to scrap the requirement for out-of-school providers to follow the learning and development requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage have, however, been welcomed by the NDNA.

Tanuku said: “By removing that particular piece of red tape, children who have already had a full day at school will be able to spend their free time relaxing, playing and having fun.”

The government says it hopes the relaxing of regulations will make it easier for schools to offer out-of-hours care from 8am to 6pm to better “meet the needs of working families”.

In a speech to the Resolution Foundation this week, childcare minister Elizabeth Truss added: “If they [schools] want to offer extensions of the school day, they have to struggle through a different set of staffing rules, different qualification rules, local consultations, and local authority permissions.

“So we’re making the staffing requirements for out-of-hours the same, so that the school doesn’t need to worry about changing the numbers of staff, just because the clock’s struck four.”

4Children chief executive Anne Longfield urged schools “to rise to the challenge” of providing good quality out-of-school care.

She said: “There is now an opportunity to make great after-school opportunities a possibility for all children, less formal than the school day and led by inspirational and supportive staff.

“Many of these clubs are already provided by voluntary and community organisations and there is now a real opportunity for schools to forge new partnerships to provide childcare.”

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