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NEWS: Government to consult with sector on regulation change in England

Over recent weeks the Government has hinted that it is looking at changes to early years and childcare regulation in England as a way to improve accessibility and affordability of provision for families.  

Proposed ratio change

Today a news article published in the Sun suggests that the Prime Minister intends to alter the ratios in group settings to one adult per five children, instead of one adult per four. This would apply to two-year olds in group setttings, bringing the requirement in England in line with Scotland. We are not aware of any specific proposals to alter ratios in childminding settings, however we have already shared with the Department for Education (DfE) our concerns over the impact that this might have. 

‘More radical measures’ needed

In the article the Children and Families Minister, Will Quince MP acknowledged that changing ratios is not a 'magic bullet’ and that other measures will be considered, including looking at employer contributions and the expansion of ‘free’ childcare entitlements.  

Formal consultation to launch 'before summer'

The Minister confirmed this afternoon that the Government will formally consult with the sector on the proposed changes to ratios for two-year-olds in group settings. Writing on Twitter, the Minister said the consultation would take place ‘before the summer’ with proposals aimed at ‘giving providers greater flexibility’ without compromising safety or quality.  

As PACEY members, we will ensure that you are kept up-to-date on proposals and that you have the opportunity to put forward your opinions and views. Please keep an eye on our channels for more information when this is available.  

Liz Bayram, Chief Executive at PACEY comments:  

“We hope that a consultation process will provide Government with the opportunity to engage in a more open discussion with the sector on sensible measures to improve the quality, accessibility and affordability for families who rely on early years and childcare as well as support the providers that deliver it. The fact the Minister has also highlighted potential changes to funded childcare and the role that employers might play is positive but he must recognise that any changes must be built on adequate government funding so that childminders, nurseries and pre-schools who provide Government-funded early education places can sustain their services and move away from the low earnings that prevent them from recruiting and retaining staff. 

“The Government also needs to look across the whole sector and consider what unintended consequences any changes in one type of provision may have on other forms of provision, including registered childminders.  PACEY has already suggested some policy changes that would make a tangible difference and we will be highlighting these in any consultation process. This includes reversing the illogical rule that prevents childminders from claiming entitlement funding for related children and easing the time limits on childminder assistants working alone with children. 

“We will be seeking members’ views on what they see as the main barriers they face and what their views are on any changes to ratios. There were strong views against proposed changes the last time these were consulted on and we are keen to understand if members still feel the same.  

“Ultimately regulations are in place to protect children and ensure they receive the high-quality and safe provision that they need. This must be central to any final proposals.”