Children’s minister reveals plans to consult on relaxation of childcare ratios

Fiona Simpson
Friday, May 13, 2022

The government will consult on relaxing childcare ratios for two-year-olds to bring England in line with Scotland before the summer, the children’s minister has announced.

A consultation on childcare ratios will be held before the summer, the children's minister has said. Picture: Adobe Stock
A consultation on childcare ratios will be held before the summer, the children's minister has said. Picture: Adobe Stock

In a series of tweets, Will Quince shared plans to increase the number of two-year-olds allowed to be looked after by one adult in childcare settings from four to five.

He said: “I've considered the childcare ratio question carefully and put safety and quality first. We will be consulting on mirroring the Scottish model before the summer, which means a maximum ratio of one to five instead of one to four for two-year-olds.”

The children’s minister hinted that proposals had been backed by some childcare providers, adding: “This proposal is about giving providers greater flexibility. Some were pushing me to go further on ratio reform but I’ve been clear from the start that I would not compromise on safety or quality.

“This consultation is just the start of the journey. We have some of the best early years provision in the world, and I'll continue exploring how we can be ambitious for working parents - improving flexibility and reducing the cost of childcare.”

Quince first announced plans to “look into” ways to reduce childcare costs through measures including changes to regulation compared with processes used in countries including Scotland, sparking criticism from parts of the sector.

More than 1,500 people have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister from June O'Sullivan, chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation, calling on ministers not to relax ratios.

Responding to today’s (13 May) announcement, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: “The government knows full well that the sector is opposed to this ludicrous, pointless and potentially dangerous policy - so why is it wasting time asking a question it already knows the answer to?”

He added: “The ignorance and short-sightedness that would lead anyone to suggest relaxing ratios as a solution to the problems our sector faces is frankly mind-boggling. 

“We know that the vast majority of providers won’t change how they operate, regardless of any rule changes, so this policy won’t even deliver the savings to parents, ministers are claiming it will. But even a tiny minority of providers who feel they have no choice but to relax ratios could put the safety and wellbeing of young children at those settings at unacceptable risk.”

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association, “welcomed” plans to consult on the changes, but added: “As the only early years organisation representing settings across the UK we know some of our members are already delivering excellent care in Scotland within these adult to child ratios. However, the government must acknowledge the different landscapes between the two nations in terms of qualifications, regulation of the workforce and early years funding.”

Quince’s comments come almost a decade after the sector led a campaign against plans by then-early years minister Liz Truss to relax early years ratios.

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