Early Childhood Education services in the UK will soon be able to take on extra children for each member of staff under plans put forward by the current government.
The plan will see ECE staff able to care for up to six 2-year-olds rather than the current four, and up to four under-1s compared to the current three. Childminders will also be able to care for two babies instead of just one and four under-5s rather than three.
The changes have been criticised by many ECE providers in the UK who say raising ratios will have a negative impact on the care of children.
The UK Minister for Education and Childcare Liz Truss has also expressed the view that ECE services need to focus more on teaching children rather than just caring for them. This has been interpreted by some groups as meaning that ECE services should be teaching young children to read and write which has also been widely criticised.
The UK government is also creating a new Early Years Teacher qualification which will require entrants to have at least a C-grade in English, Maths and Science at GCSE Level which is roughly equivalent to NCEA Level One, the same standards as required for primary school teacher trainees. A separate Early Years Educator qualification at a slightly lower level will also be introduced. The increased ratios are likely to be dependent on ECE services employing more qualified staff.
The plans contained in the government’s More Great Childcare document also include moves to allow schools to accept children from the age of two based on France’s Ecole Maternelle system which allows schools to operate infant classes. The report states that many schools already have nurseries attached to them and the changes would make it easier for schools to run nurseries or to integrate younger children into the teaching programme by removing some of the current regulations.
The report was put together following a review of early education and childcare qualifications by Professor Cathy Nutbrown who is Head of The School of Education at Sheffield University. Professor Nutbrown was commissioned by the government to lead the independent review and set out 19 recommendations in her final report. They included raising qualification levels for early childhood educators and tightening the requirements for services which are allowed to host student teachers.