Will increased nursery ratios endanger allergic children?

On 29 January 2013, Education Minister, Elizabeth Truss, announced that childcare ratios will change, to allow “high quality” nurseries and childminders in England to take on more children.

The government is introducing “Early Years Educators”, who will be required to have at least a C grade in GCSE English and maths. In nurseries, where there is an Early Years Educator leading a group of children, the staff:children ratios will increase from:

  • 1:3 to 1:4, for children under 2.
  • 1:4 to 1:6, for 2 year olds.

I think many parents of babies and toddlers in nursery will be concerned that their children will be given less attention under the new ratios. However, I also wonder whether children with life threatening allergies are particularly at risk under the new measures?

As readers of this blog will know, my son has continued to attend nursery following his anaphylactic peanut reaction, as we were reassured by the procedures they have adopted. Although we are happy with his nursery, there have still been a couple of instances over the last year where, when we have collected him, he has had a bite mark or a bruise that the nursery staff were unaware of and have been unable to explain. And that’s on a 1:4 ratio.

The fact that, going forward, the ladies in the room might all have grade A-C in GCSE maths doesn’t really provide much comfort. It’s not their knowledge of long division that really interests me; it’s their ability to ensure my son’s safety.

When each member of staff is required to look after six 2-year-olds, it will be even harder for them to police the toddler wars. More worryingly, it will be even harder for them to keep an eye out for the signs of the start of an allergic reaction. And with anaphylaxis, every second counts.

The announcement document does stress that the new ratios are maximum legal limits and “parents will still be free to choose nurseries that operate on existing ratios if they prefer”. I guess we will have to wait and see what happens in practice. Will there be any nurseries left operating on the old ratios?

Source: Department for Education, More Great Childcare.

Update (5 June 2013)

Great news – the proposed increases have been axed – see BBC News article, Clegg says nursery ratio changes are being scrapped.


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