When we were new parents, finding a nursery place wasn’t a consideration, although no doubt places were available to those that needed them, at a cost. But it was a very different world 34 years ago.
Dropping your child off en route to work has become an accepted part of the modern daily routine, and few would argue against long-term security for the family, the right to a career and personal development, a healthy joint income and all that it promises for your children.
Of course, nursery care isn’t all things to all parents, and there are some parents who struggle with guilt and disappointment, a nagging sense of failure, the fear of coming up short. Perhaps they’ve missed baby's first word or first steps, and had to settle for delight by proxy, as the nursery worker hands over the news along with the child at the end of a long day. For these parents, any misgivings about leaving their offspring in another person’s care, might at least be compensated by the reassurance of an adequate child to carer ratio. While mum and dad are doing their bit in the workplace, they can be satisfied that the little ones are receiving all the attention they deserve.
So when it was announced that the ratio will be raised, my heart sank a little. The government says that better qualified carers will make this shift possible and bring UK standards into line with those of France and Denmark, raising the likelihood that one carer may soon have responsibility for six 2 year-olds rather than four. Apparently, “…it is no longer acceptable that childcare professionals are not required to have a GCSE grade C or above in English and maths.”
Forgive me but haven’t we been down this route before, in other areas of care? The benefits of graduate nurses at government insistence, have yet to be proven. Obviously we want a high standard of nursery provision, but is it really desirable to professionalise it? How many candidates with excellent caring qualities will be overlooked because they don't tick the required academic boxes?
Just as worrying for those parents who are now wringing their hands over the proposed changes to child carer ratios, is the confidence-shaking prospect that levels of competency within the current system are somehow below par.