NURSERIES in Ipswich have responded to proposals to allow staff to look after more children as part of efforts to cut childcare costs.

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Education minister Liz Truss outlined the proposed changes yesterday, which would allow nursery staff to take charge of six two-year-olds, instead of four and four under-ones, instead of three.

She also proposed reforms that will see higher qualifications required of those caring for pre-schoolers.

Ipswich Private Kindergarten (IPK) assistant manager, Sarah Elvin, is very unhappy with the proposals.

She said: “No-one here thinks it’s a good idea. Changing the ratio would make everyone’s job more difficult and lower the quality of childcare and the individual time we could spend with the children.”

Miss Elvin also expressed concerns about children’s safety.

She said: “Having 12 two-year-olds and two members of staff – they couldn’t look after all the children and keep them safe. If you had four babies per adult, they wouldn’t be able to carry them all out of a fire.”

Ratios for over-threes would remain at eight or 13 children per adult under the new proposals, depending on whether a qualified graduate was present, but Miss Elvin thinks this is still too high and extra qualifications are unnecessary.

“We work on a 1:6 ratio here with our over-threes,” she said. “Legally it’s 1:8, but we don’t stick to that.

“And being more qualified doesn’t give you an extra pair of hands or eyes. It’s all about the experience – you could be an A* student and not be the caring person that we need.”

At Spitfires Nursery in Ravenswood Children’s Centre, the new proposals were greeted with apprehension by staff.

Director of nursery services Julie Bullivant said: “I’d want to make sure that care is not compromised. We pride ourselves on having high quality care, so I don’t think we’d fully take on the new rules.

“It would be something we’d have to look into and seek parents’ views. We wouldn’t jump into anything.”

Mrs Bullivant was more open to the idea of higher qualifications for staff to raise wages and in favour of reducing childcare costs for parents.

She said: “I think something needs to be done, because the cost of childcare is quite high for parents and I think it’s good that they’re trying to raise the qualification level of staff.

“We have a lot of highly qualified staff and we tend to lose them to higher paid jobs. I think it will help but I think it needs a lot of thought.”

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