Bub has just moved to a new ‘room’ at nursery. This is because he’s three so he is now in the three to five year olds section.
It’s given me an interesting perspective on the recent Government proposals to relax the staff to child ratios in childcare provision.
The room Bub is in now has eight kids to every adult. In his previous room (two to three year olds) it was four to one. As parents we’ve noticed a big difference straight away. Bub only does afternoons so he arrives midway through the day. In the old setting staff would greet him, settle him in and encourage him to get into some play. If he was clingy they’d carry him to the window to wave goodbye to us. Now he gets barely any acknowledgement and we as parents get even less. A group of little girls said something nasty to Bub on drop off the other day and there was no-one to speak to or help support him into the session. Bub’s daddy had to help integrate a rather down hearted little boy into a game himself.
I know that the older kids require less help and support, in general, but Bub has only just switched rooms. He’s generally very happy about being with the big kids. But the problem with strict ratios is that there’s no slack to provide extra attention if it’s needed. And this is with the current staffing ratios. Increase them further and this can only get worse.
Bub’s language skills are so much better than they were. But he just can’t keep up with the super fluent four year olds he’s now mixing with. It’s a bit sad to see them chatting away like mad with each other. He can understand but not join in. I’m sure that, alongside just general change, this is why he’s a bit unsettled by the move to another section. And probably why some of the bigger kids just see him as a baby who they don’t want to play with.
Am sure he’ll be fine soon but at the moment I do feel for the poor boy. He’s desperately keen to be friends, especially with bigger kids, but needs a bit of help sometimes to do so. And it’s sad the nursery doesn’t quite have the staff in place to help it happen.
This is why the proposed changes worry me. The government suggests that greater ratios will not reduce quality but I fail to see how this follows. I also doubt childcare costs will reduce much either. Most local nurseries are already filled to their physical capacity. There won’t be new spaces popping up. Instead it’ll just mean that childcare jobs go, nursery margins increase slightly from rock bottom, and kids get a rawer deal. I really can’t see prices dropping by more than a small fraction and if anything they’ll increase for parents willing to pay over the odds for a ‘premium’ service with reasonable ratios.
Something does need to be done about the high cost of childcare. But I don’t think this is it. More state assistance with childcare costs seems to me to be the best and only way to retain quality but reduce fees. Spread the load a bit amongst all taxpayers so that parents themselves pay less during those early years. This way parents can then make decisions about staying in work, or not, based on factors other than the ferociously high cost of care. I’m sure over time the increased income (and therefore taxes) of parents who choose to work would go some way to helping fund this. And over years parents do of course pay a very large amount of tax which would mean they ultimately meet the cost of this short term assistance with care costs.