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Closed petition Do not reduce staff-child ratios in early years childcare

The Government should not reduce the existing adult-child childcare ratios as has been suggested. There are surely better ways to reduce the cost of living – potentially endangering children in trusted care is not how it should be done.

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Increasing how many children an adult can legally be held responsible for risks increasing the danger that those young children, the most vulnerable in society, are being subjected to.

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Parliament debated this topic

This topic was debated on 14 November 2022

Watch the petition 'Do not reduce staff-child ratios in early years childcare' being debated

Government responded

This response was given on 17 May 2022

We will consult in the summer on moving to the Scottish ratios for two-year-olds, from a ratio of 1:4 to 1:5. We will engage fully with the sector and parents/carers on this proposed change.

Read the response in full

The Government will consult in the summer on moving to the Scottish ratios for two-year-olds, from a ratio of 1:4 (one adult to four children) to 1:5 (one adult to five children). Throughout this consultation process, we will engage fully with the sector and parents/carers on this proposed change. Our priority continues to be to provide safe, high quality early years provision for our youngest children.

This change would align the English system to that of Scotland. We are proposing to move to the Scottish ratios for 2-year-olds on the basis that Scotland has a similar childcare system to England, we have no evidence to suggest that the Scottish model is unsafe, and evidence shows high parental satisfaction rates. England’s statutory minimum staff to child ratios for 2-year-olds are among the highest in Europe.

Whilst these proposed changes to ratios would amend the existing statutory minimum requirements, providers would continue to be able to staff above these minimum requirements if that is their preference. These changes would hand greater autonomy to settings to exercise professional judgement in the way in which they staff their settings, according to the needs of their children, and help as many families as possible benefit from affordable, flexible, quality childcare.

The safety and quality of early years provision is of utmost importance to the Government. All early years providers are legally required to keep children safe and promote their welfare. The Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework (EYFS) [https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/974907/EYFS_framework_-_March_2021.pdf] sets the standards and requirements that all early years providers must follow to ensure all children have the best start in life, including requirements for the ratios of staff to children.

This also includes safeguarding and welfare requirements such as the paediatric first aid requirement (PFA), where at least one person who has a current PFA certificate must be on the premises and available at all times when children are present. Early Years providers must ensure that people looking after children are suitable to fulfil the requirements of their role and providers must train all staff to understand their safeguarding policy and procedures. These, along with the other requirements within the EYFS, are designed to help early years providers create high quality settings which are welcoming, safe and stimulating, and where children are able to enjoy learning and grow in confidence.

The Government recognises that the cost of living and the cost of childcare is a concern for people. The Department for Education is working across government to support families with their childcare bills through 15 hours free childcare for eligible 2-year-olds, 30 hours free childcare for 3–4-year-olds, Tax Free Childcare and Universal Credit. We have spent over £3.5bn in each of the past three years on our early education entitlements and the Government is committed to continuing to look for ways to improve the cost, choice, and availability of childcare and early education. Furthermore, at Spending Review (SR) ‘21 we announced additional funding of £160m in 2022-23, £180m in 2023-24 and £170m in 2024-25, compared to the 2021-22 financial year. This is for Local Authorities to increase hourly rates paid to childcare providers and reflects cost pressures and changes in the number of eligible children anticipated at the time of the SR.

Department for Education

Childcare costs debated by MPs

On Tuesday 7 June, MPs debated the cost of childcare and children's education recovery. This was an Opposition Day debate on a motion determined by the Labour Party.

Watch the debate: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/396f4020-be34-46b4-9cb4-d850fa2e5a03?in=16:12:54

Read a transcript of the debate: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-06-07/debates/7018B655-BB9C-44A1-A093-3698005106A8/Children%E2%80%99SEducationRecoveryAndChildcareCosts

During the debate, MPs highlighted concerns about the affordability and availability of childcare, and the impact this has on parents' (especially mothers') ability to remain in employment.

MPs also discussed the Government's plans to help children at school catch up on their education following the disruption caused by the covid-19 pandemic, support for the early years sector, and young people's mental health.

What are Opposition Days?

Opposition days are days allocated in the House of Commons for the discussion of subjects chosen by the opposition (non-government) parties.

Find out more about Opposition days: https://www.parliament.uk/site-information/glossary/opposition-days

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Share your views on changes to childcare staffing requirements with the Government

The Government has launched a public consultation on changes it is proposing to the number of children that childcare providers are allowed to look after in England.

Find out more about the consultation, and share your views.

The consultation is open until 11.45pm on 16 September 2022. Once the consultation has closed, the Government will publish a summary of the responses and next steps on GOV.UK.

What is the Government proposing?

The Government's proposals include changing the minimum staff to child ratios in England for 2-year-olds from 1:4 to 1:5. This means that each individual member of staff would be able to look after five 2-year olds. Currently a single member of childcare staff cannot look after more than four 2-year olds.

The proposals also including giving childminders extra flexibility to care for a fourth child under the age of 5 when looking after their own children or siblings of another child they care for.

The Government has said its plans are designed to improve the choice and availability of childcare that families can access while reducing costs, and to give childcare providers more flexibility and autonomy. This consultation seeks views on these proposals, to ensure any changes are "fair and well-informed".

Read more about the Government's plans in their press release.

The Minister for Children and Families, Will Quince MP, also made a written statement to MPs, setting out the Government's proposals.

Who is running the consultation?

The consultation is being run by the Department for Education, the Government department responsible for children’s services and education (including early years education) in England. The devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are responsible for policy in those nations.

Find out more about what the Department for Education does.

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MPs investigate support for childcare and the early years

A group of MPs called the Education Committee are looking into support for childcare and the early years.

The issues the Committee is considering include:

  • How affordable and easy to understand the provision of childcare in England is
  • Whether current entitlements are providing parents and carers with sufficient childcare
  • The workforce challenges faced by early years providers
  • Whether the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) system is meeting the needs of pupils with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND)

Read the Committee's press notice announcing this work for more information.

What happens next?

The Committee is going to conduct 'evidence sessions' where they will hear from experts in the sector and representatives from the Government.

An 'evidence session' is a hearing where MPs ask key experts, such as Ministers or campaigners, questions on a particular topic. These experts are called 'witnesses' and they help MPs to gain a deeper understanding of the topic.

The Committee will then consider all the evidence it has taken and publish a report of its findings with recommendations to the Government on any changes that might be needed.

For more information about the inquiry, visit the Committee's inquiry page.

What is the Education Committee?

The Education Committee is a cross-party group of MPs that look into the work of the Department for Education, covering children's social care, schools, colleges, the early years and higher education.

The Education Committee is a select committee.

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MPs debate the affordability and availability of childcare

On Tuesday 21 February, MPs debated the affordability and availability of childcare.

This was a Westminster Hall debate, led by Ruth Cadbury MP. Claire Coutinho MP, the Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, responded to the debate.

What are Westminster Hall debates?

Westminster Hall is the second Chamber of the House of Commons.

Westminster Hall debates give MPs an opportunity to raise local or national issues and receive a response from a government minister. Any MP can take part in a Westminster Hall debate.

Debates in Westminster Hall take place on ‘general debate' motions expressed in neutral terms. These motions are worded ‘That this House has considered [a specific matter]'.

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Government confirms changes staff-to-child ratios for 2 year olds

On Wednesday 15 March, the Government announced that it would be changing the staff-to-child ratios for 2 year olds from 1:4 to 1:5.

Find out more about the outcome of the childcare regulatory changes consultation .

Following the announcements, the Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP, highlighted "the serious concerns raised by petitioners and experts who we heard from before a debate on childcare staff ratios last year."

She also said that "the childcare sector and parents need clarity about how these new entitlements, and changes to staff-child ratios, will be delivered in a way that makes affordable and safe childcare more accessible."

The Government also announced that working parents in England will be able to access 30 hours of free childcare per week, for 38 weeks of the year, from when their child is 9 months old to when they start school. This will be rolled out in stages.

Find out more in the Government's Spring Budge factsheet

What is the Petitions Committee

The Petitions Committee is a group of cross-party MPs that oversees petitions started on petition.parliament.uk

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Support for childcare and the early years debated by MPs

On Monday 16 October, Robin Walker MP led a debate in Parliament on support for childcare and the early years. During the debate, MPs discussed the 30 hours free childcare scheme and the early childhood education and care system.

Backbench business debates give backbenchers (MPs who aren’t ministers or shadow ministers) an opportunity to secure a debate on a topic of their choice, either in the Chamber or Westminster Hall.

MPs can make a request for a debate to the Backbench Business Committee, who hears and decides which debates to schedule.

Backbench debates can either be general debates (which do not end in a vote) or be on a substantive motion (which calls for an action and can end in a vote). This debate was a general debate.

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Government responds to Education Committee's report on childcare

MPs on the House of Commons Education Committee called for action by the Government to help support the childcare and early years sector.

Government response to the Committee's report on supporting the childcare and early years sector

In July 2023, the Committee published a report on supporting the childcare and early years sector and made recommendations to increase choice, availability and flexibility for parents.

You can read a summary of the Committee's report, and the Committee's full report on its website.

The Committee also had a debate on its report on 16 October where it pressed the Government on these issues. You can read the debate here.

The Government responded to the Committee's report on 17 October. The Government fully accepted four out of 23 of the Committee's recommendations and confirmed that it is:

  • Engaging with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and a range of housing sector stakeholders to identify and reduce property related barriers to childminding
  • Developing a national campaign "to boost interest in the sector"
  • Removing barriers to entering the sector by ensuring qualifications are suitable and easily understood
  • Introducing new types of apprenticeship for becoming a childcare professional

You can read the Government's response here.

What is the Education Committee?

The Education Committee is a cross-party group of backbench MPs that scrutinises the administration, spending and policy of the Government’s Department for Education.

The Education Committee is a select committee. Find out how select committees work.

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