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Rules on ratios could be relaxed for childminders with 30-hours children

By Rachel Lawler

The Department for Education (DfE) has suggested that childminders who offer wraparound care for children accessing the 30-hour offer at a maintained school, academy or independent school may be able to make an exception to the usual rules on staff to child ratios.

Ratio rules
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework currently states that “If children aged four and five only attend the childminding setting before and/or after a normal school day, and/or during school holidays, they may be cared for at the same time as three other young children.” (3.42)
However, the DfE has now said that this ratio exception could also apply to three-year-olds taking up their 30-hours place in a school.
Under these changes, the total number of children aged under eight cared for at one time must still remain below six and the childminder must be able to demonstrate that the individual needs of all of the children are still being met.

Alliance concerns
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, raised concerns about the updated rules. He said: “Existing ratios are in place for a reason and the sector has made its views on relaxing ratios very clear. To start tinkering around with the rules and making ratios changes through the backdoor as a shortcut to tackling concerns that there won’t be enough 30-hours places simply isn’t acceptable.”
Neil added that the move could be seen to suggest that childminders exist only to cover for hours that schools, nurseries and pre-schools cannot deliver. He said: “Childminders are a vital source of quality, flexible care and education in their own right, and if the government wants to encourage them to play a larger role in the 30-hours policy, it should a) pay them – along with all early years settings – a fair and sustainable rate and b) focus on better promoting them to parents as a quality service, equal to that of group settings.”
DfE response
A spokesperson from the DfE told Under 5: "Policy on childminding ratios remains unchanged. Exceptions to the usual childminding ratios may be possible, where childminders can demonstrate that the quality of care and safety and security of children is maintained and the individual needs of the children are being met."