I don’t know whether this is the same story as my last post, and that the BBC is just, well, slow on the uptake, but they have reported today Liz Truss’ statement that nursery settings will be given more freedom over staffing ratios provided that they commit to ensuring that nursery workers have a good GCSE in English and Maths. The bottom line is economic, of course, because it always is. Children are only ever destined to serve “the economy” – Mammon, in biblical terms – so we should not give too much credence to the altruistic motivation that lies like a layer of fablon over the government’s pronouncements. Apparently, Ms Truss will make a speech today in which she makes the following point (and yes, it really does pain me to be quoting so much from a government minister):
Whereas in England nursery staff may look after no more than three one-year-olds, in France they can be responsible for five – and there are no limits in Denmark, Germany or Sweden. That is why we are encouraging nurseries to use their professional judgement and enjoy greater flexibility.
Where there is an early-years educator working with children, we plan to allow ratios for two-year-olds to rise from four children per adult to six children per adult. And for ones-and-under to rise from three children per adult to four children per adult. Ratios for three-year-olds and over would remain at eight or 13 children per adult, depending on whether a qualified graduate was present.
When parents hand their child over to the care of a childminder or nursery, they are not just entrusting them with their child’s physical safety, they are also entrusting their child’s brain. With this in mind, it is no longer acceptable that childcare professionals are not required to have a GCSE grade C or above in English and maths.
This will not affect large nurseries dealing with 3-4 year olds, such as the one we operate at Christ the Sower, and of course, there is much (from the standpoint of a small nursery manager) that makes sense here – one of the greatest hassles is not being able to respond quickly and sensibly to a request from a parent for help because of the need to remain within ratios. The health and safety crowd are of course pointing out the dangers, and they are right to, by the way, because not only do small nurseries need freedom, they also need a measure of protection and the existing staffing ratios affords them that.
But the glory of this speech lies in the last paragraph quoted – they are not just entrusting them with their child’s physical safety, they are also entrusting their child’s brain. Who is her speech writer, and can I hire him? Is he the same guy who wrote this? It gets worse, though, doesn’t it? The best thing we can offer, apparently, to fix the problem, is a pair of GCSEs which the Secretary of State for Education in the same government says are not worth preserving. The obvious is just sitting there ready to be said, so you can imagine me saying it….