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Liz Truss should focus on nursery funding, not staffing ratios

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Zoe Williams brings up Liz Truss’s proposals to cut staff-to-child ratios as a solution to the funding crisis faced by both maintained and private, voluntary and independent (PVI) providers (Toddlers, stop your running around: Liz Truss is coming for you, 3 October).Truss put forward this idea in 2012 in the CentreForum thinktank paper Affordable Quality: New Approaches to Childcare, and the following year as undersecretary of state for education and childcare in the report More Great Childcare.

Both documents are riddled with inaccuracies, which I detailed in 2013 in the article Like an ‘Uncontrolled Toddler’ Elizabeth Truss Risks Causing Chaos in England’s Nursery Education and Child Care Sector, published in the journal Forum.In the 2012 paper Truss claimed that “the British government spends over £7 billion per year on pre-school support, more than Germany, France or the Netherlands”, despite Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development data showing that France and Germany spend far more than the UK.Underfunding is the biggest challenge facing all providers in the sector, resulting in a situation where maintained nursery schools, once the envy of the world, are closing, and most PVI providers can’t afford to pay their staff a wage commensurate with their qualifications and expertise.If Liz Truss were to visit any of her local nursery schools or some of the PVI providers where I have worked as a mentor and assessor, she would find that relaxing ratios is not their top priority.

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