How many kids can a childminder cope with?

childcare changes

Childminders and nurseries are to be allowed to look after more children. Will it cut childcare costs, or just lower standards?

British families spend an average of 27% of their income on childcare, which is the second highest proportion in the world. The government are hoping that relaxing childminder ratios will help bring down the price of childcare.

British families spend 27% of their income on childcare

What changes are being brought in?

Currently, the legal childminder to child ratios are as follows:

One-year-olds and under: Max of 3 children for every 1 childminder

Two-year olds: Max of 4 children for every 1 childminder

Three-year-olds and above: Max of 8 children for every 1 childminder

The proposed changes are:

One-year-olds and under: Max of 4 children for every 1 childminder

Two-year-olds: Max of 6 children for every 1 childminder

Three-year-olds and above: Max of 8 children for every 1 childminder

The Department for Education said that these proposals were dependent on childminding staff possessing higher qualifications, including having Grade C or above at GCSE Maths and English.

However, critics have argued that increasing the ratio of children to childminders will compromise the quality and safety of childcare – and that any savings made won’t necessarily be passed on to hard-pressed parents.

Will these changes lower the quality of childcare?

Hard to say, but many experts are worried that this is the case.

While increasing the qualifications of childcare workers can only be a good thing, many childcare experts and parents are worried that relaxing the childminder to children ratios will lead to the quality of childcare declining. The changes have been labelled “unacceptable and a recipe for disaster” by the Pre-School Learning Alliance, which is the largest representative organisation of early years providers.


It aims to raise the quality of childcare staff

Children’s Minister Liz Truss argues that: “Other European countries have taken a different approach on ratios. They think that the quality of staff is the most important thing.

“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.”

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg responded to this point, saying: “I think this is one area where we’ve actually got something to teach other countries.

“If you look at France, there’s actually quite a big public debate about whether they’ve got this right. I don’t think you can compare the situation with Sweden where they have very, very generous parental leave so very few young babies are in these sorts of settings.”

Will these changes lower the cost of childcare?

The government says that other European companies have more relaxed childcare ratios, and that our stricter ratios have led to higher costs for parents and lower pay for staff.

The Daycare Trust, a charity that campaigns for affordable quality childcare, welcomes the move to improve childcare professionals’ qualifications – but warned that increasing the number of children staff can look after won’t necessarily lead to lower costs for parents.

It won’t necessarily lead to lower costs for parents

They argue that the extra money gained by nurseries relaxing childminder ratios is likely to be used to increase the pay of staff and boost the turnover of nurseries – many of which operate on very thin profit margins.

Research seems to bear this out. Eva Lloyd, Reader in Early Childhood at the Cass School of Education at the University of East London, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that: “There is no relationship between ratios and driving the cost down for parents.”

Where can I get help with childcare costs now?

Have a look at these three ways to get help with your childcare costs.