Childcare Changes: For Better or For Worse?Thursday 31st of January 2013 | Category: Baby News | Written by: Alice Edwards
This week the government proposed changes to our childcare system, whereby the ratio of nursery staff to children is decreased, in a bid to make childcare more affordable for working parents. The aim of this is to get more mothers going back to work, thus boosting Britain's troubled economy. Instead of a ratio of one adult to four 2-year olds, this will be raised so that one qualified member of staff can look after six 2-year olds, and the ratio of staff to babies will rise from 1-3 to 1-4. It's clear that childcare costs are prohibitive for many parents. In the rest of Europe, parents spend an average of 13% of their income on childcare, but in Britain we spend 27% of our income on childcare. Economic reasons are often cited for women unwillingly returning to work when they'd rather spend time with their children, but studies have found that women are being forced out of the job market due to the cost of childcare in Britain.
Money, Money, Money
As in most households, the cost of childcare is an issue for my household. Most nurseries near me charge £1000 for a full time place, with a 10% reduction for a second child. So for families where both parents work full-time, childcare would cost £1800. Vidhya Alakeson, deputy chief executive of the Resolution Foundation states "It's hardly worth a typical second earner going out to work more than a couple of days a week, because the family will be barely better off," .
But is the government's solution to try and ease the burden of childcare costs the right one? Parents already feel an enormous amount of guilt when they put their children in nurseries so they can return to work, but knowing they are in a place where their physical and emotional needs will be met goes someway to placate this feeling. Knowing that their baby or toddler is going to receive less attention, and less supervision doesn't make it easier for mothers to return to the workplace, but rather the opposite. If my two-year old daughter is one of 6 instead of one of 4, I'd feel very uneasy about dropping her off at nursery while I work. Each child will have less quality time with the nursery staff, less cuddles, and the staff run the risk of being overstretched. Children need to be supervised constantly as biting, hitting, pushing and toy-snatching are all common occurrences among pre-school children, and with a higher ratio of children to staff, these are incidents are bound to increase.
Will We Really See Better Care?
The government cites that this proposal is better for children as well as parents as they want to employ 'better qualified' nursery workers. The Department for Education states: 'The current system doesn't work. We have a poorly-paid and poorly-qualified Early Years workforce with many not having a grade C in GCSE English and Maths'. The Department for Education says they will only relax the ratios in nurseries with 'highly-qualified staff'. These qualifications are presumably the aforementioned GCSE's in Maths and English. Personally, I don't see how having a GCSE in Maths or English makes a person better qualified to look after my daughter. She's only two; I love introducing her to the concept of Maths, but at her age this means showing her numbers and counting with her. You don't need a GCSE in Maths to do that. She's not going to be solving quadratic equations anytime soon.
My idea of a highly skilled nursery worker is one who can supervise multiple toddlers/babies simultaneously, keeping them all safe, dispelling any fights quickly, soothing tears, making sure they're not hungry or thirsty, changing nappies when they're wet, spending quality time playing/reading with them, and cuddling them. The government's plans to employ nursery staff with GCSE Maths and English will push many people out of this career path whose strengths don't lie in academics but are capable of providing excellent care to children.
Would these changes to childcare put you off putting your baby or toddler in nursery, or would it enable you to go out to work? Is this a good solution for soaring childcare costs? Let us know what you think and how these changes affect you.