Early years sector concerned that reforms could put children at risk

  • 22/03/2013

Media Release

Embargoed until: 00:01am on Friday 22nd March 2013

Early years sector concerned that reforms could put children at risk

A new survey from leading children's charity the National Children's Bureau (NCB), reports wide spread concerns across the early years sector over proposed childcare reforms.

The survey, which gathered the views of those on the 'frontline' of childcare (the early year's networks, including staff from local authority early years teams, managers and practitioners from nursery settings, alongside childminders and parents) suggests the government may need to rethink plans to overhaul the childcare system as set out in the 'More Great Childcare'report released in February this year.

Findings from the survey revealed that 95% of respondents are concerned about increasing childcare ratios, saying that practitioners caring for children aged two or under should not be looking after a greater number of children. Similarly, 80% felt that the ratios for under fives should also remain as they are. Suggested changes would see both these ratios raised to one adult/staff member to four children.

One practitioner said:"Relaxing child to staff ratios will increase the health and safety risk for children, especially in the case of fire evacuation, as one person cannot carry four babies. The staff member will be providing basic care needs and will not have the time to provide stimulating individual activities for children and safeguarding issues may be missed."

Dr Hilary Emery, Chief Executive of National Children's Bureau said: "The message coming from the early years sector is that whilst there is agreement that the government needs to act in order to make childcare more affordable, there are widely held fears that allowing providers to take on more children, in the same space with the same number of staff, could put children's welfare at risk and won't necessarily save parents any more money."


"We welcome the support for the development of the early years workforce, to ensure the highest quality provision. However, the report reflects concerns that the proposed new Early Years Teacher qualification will not lead to Qualified Teacher Status and give parity with other teachers as Professor Cathy Nutbrown recommended in her expert review for government. "


"In moving forward ministers need to take account of what providers are saying, and work with the sector in finalising their proposals."


One respondent said:"Without the clear identification of Early Years Teachers within the ranks of qualified teachers, the goal of attracting high calibre individuals into this demanding and skilled professional will not be realised."

Further responses from the survey included:

  • A concern that the government proposals would mean Ofsted becoming the 'sole arbiter of quality'. Many of  those 'on the ground' feel that local authorities should also provide quality improvement and support functions, with 80% of respondents fearing slipping standards if local authorities were relieved of their current duty to carry out childcare sufficiency assessments every three years.
  • Respondents were also worried about the introduction of childminder agencies. One individual stated"All childminders within the agency will hold the same Ofsted judgement regardless of practice and this will not accurately reflect the practice of all the childminders within the agency."NCB's recommendations include a suggestion that DfE looks to expand childminding networks, through focused and systematic support from central and local government as an alternative.



Further information and the full report 'More Great Childcare- Survey of National Children's Bureau early years networks'are available on the NCB website: http://www.ncb.org.uk/policy-evidence/policy/thematic-policy-reports


For more information, please contact the National Children's Bureau's media office for on 0207 843 6045 /47 or email media@ncb.org.uk. For urgent enquiries out of office hours call 07721 097 033.

Notes to editors

'More Great Childcare- Survey of National Children's Bureau early years networks'examined the views of NCB's early years networks (staff from local authority early years teams, managers and practitioners working within nursery settings, and staff from the children's voluntary sector). Nearly 40% of survey respondents did not belong to an NCB network; these included individuals working more widely in the early years and childcare sector, such as child minders, and a small number of parents. 324 people responded to this survey.

The National Children's Bureau (NCB)
The National Children's Bureau is a leading charity that for 50 years has been improving the lives of children and young people, especially the most vulnerable. Working with children and for children, we strive to reduce the impact of inequalities by influencing government policy using our extensive research and expertise, being a strong voice for young people and practitioners, and providing creative solutions on issues including health, education and care. Every year we reach more than 100,000 children and young people through our membership scheme, links with voluntary, statutory and private organisations, and the specialist membership programmes that we host. For more information visit www.ncb.org.uk

"Childminding Practice in England"

In December 2011 National Children's Bureau published the results of an in-depth study into childminding "Childminding Practice in England" funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and in 2013 a further analysis of study data on the views of parents who use child minders.

Both reports can be found on the National Children's Bureau website:



An NCB briefing on childcare ratios is available from: