The owner of a Shropshire nursery chain today slammed Government plans to change child care ratios claiming it would impact on child safety but do nothing to lower nursery fees.
Penny Hustwick, owner of ABC Day Nursery which has four nurseries across Telford, said the reforms announced yesterday would in reality do very little to lower the price of childcare in the UK.
Mrs Hustwick, who opened her first nursery in Wrockwardine 20 years ago and has gone on to open three more, said nurseries were currently running at a loss due to the low funding levels.
Mrs Hustwick has spoken out today after education minister Liz Truss yesterday outlined plans to introduce graduate-level Early Years teachers, a new Early years Educator qualification and insisted nursery staff should be paid more than the current £6.19 minimum wage.
Her plans included allowing ratios for two-year-olds to rise from four children per adult to six per adult and for babies one and under to rise from three children to four children per adult if an Early Years Educator was working with the children.
Mrs Hustwick said: “I think these reforms are wrong - very wrong. The plans which were announced yesterday are not going to make childcare more affordable under any circumstances. “We currently make a loss on the babies and you are lucky if you break even on the toddlers and for pre-school children who receive the free 15-hours you lose, unless you live in a deprived area and you get an extra small sum from the Government. “We get £3.32 an hour for the free 15 hours but when you base the hourly rate on a £35 daily rate over the ten hours they are here each child costs £3.50 an hour. “It equates to less than what we get if we were charging the parents. It’s an instant loss.”
Mrs Hustwick, who runs nurseries in Lightmoor, Hadley, Wrockwardine and Hollinswood, added: “These reforms will not make any difference and regardless of what the Government say there is definitely safety considerations. “You also need to take into account your floor space, each age group has to have a certain square metre per child, so it isn’t as simple as caring for another one or two. “When you have to evacuate a building currently there would be nine babies and three staff - a one in three ratio. “With the reforms there could be another three babies in that room so it would be three staff getting 12 babies out and you could have 10 who are non-walkers. “Then there are issues such as toilet and hygiene and those are needs which should be a priority and need one-to-one from staff.”
The nursery boss said the new qualification proposed differed only slightly to the current Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) which she said they often welcomed into their nurseries involving people who were already graduates.
“You already have to have your degree for the EYPS which currently gives you the choice of the higher ratio if you want it but I certainly wouldn’t want it in my nurseries,” she said. “There are other ways that the Government could help - for example by being able to claim VAT back. Nurseries have to pay VAT on rent, equipment and training for example, but by being able to claim this back it could be used to reduce costs or to put it into staff salaries. “Another idea would be to reduce business rates for nurseries. Nurseries which are registered charities do not pay full business rates and they are also exempt from VAT. “I can see what they are trying to do but I do not think increasing ratios is the way to go about it. “We are trying to raise the quality and the experience these children have in early years and they have their needs which need to be met. “In a nursery on average, 55% of their income already goes on salaries and that’s before any rent or mortgage, utility bills, equipment or arts or crafts. “We cannot reduce our daily rates any further. Nursery staff deserve to be paid more than the minimum wage for what they do and I’d love to reduce rates to make it cheaper for parents but with the current situation the money just isn’t available.”
The event at the Policy Exchange think-tank heard how the Early Years Educator qualification would require practical experience and at least a C grade in English and Maths at GCSE. However, shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said the plans threatened child safety and would not reduce costs.
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Member since: 10th July 2012
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