According to the Guardian, the UK has the second highest childcare costs in the world, second only to Switzerland. As a consequence, we also have a high level of “informal” childminding, and above average levels of government investment into childcare.
It is right that we do everything we can to ensure the provision delivering early education is of the highest quality, staff are better paid and qualified, and childcare is more affordable to parents.
At current estimates UK families with two working parents and a child in full-time care pay a third of their net income on childcare. The EU average is 12%.
I understand that choosing a nursery or child-minder is one of the most difficult decisions parents make. The overwhelming priority for parents is to find somewhere where your child will be safe, well cared for and happy.
The Government will consult on exactly what skills staff should hold in order to be allowed to look after more children. For example, we could require at least one graduate in the setting; or we could ask all staff to have at least a grade C in GCSE English and Maths. We want to hear from nurseries and parents about what would be most appropriate.
This corresponds with nurseries in many other European countries, where staff have much higher qualifications and look after more children. In Italy, the ratio is one staff member to 7 children. In Norway, it is one to 8, and in Portugal it is one to 11.
Nurseries will not be forced to make any changes, and parents will have more choice, and the choice to continue to be able to choose providers who operate with lower adult to child ratios if that is their preference. But having the second most expensive childcare in the world is not fair to families that need both parents to work.