Ratios - Employment of graduates does not lend itself to higher ratios, research suggests

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New research by the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) demonstrates that for most settings the employment of graduate staff does not lend itself to increased child:adult ratios.

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The study, in partnership with the Department for Education, examined how private, voluntary, independent and maintained nurseries and academies deploy graduates and what flexibility they allow for practice.

Of the 13 case studies that NDNA compiled from the information gathered, more than half said they did not or were unlikely to use the 1:13 ratio when a graduate is present. Of these, seven were nurseries and one was an academy.

One of the case studies, Dorking Nursery School and Dorking Rural Sure Start Children's Centre, which employs nine graduates, said that while they could use a 1:13 ratio, the layout of the maintained nursery for three- to five-year-olds means they often work to a 1:8 or 1:10 ratio during graduate-led sessions.

Another, Mucky Pups Private Nursery School in Milton Keynes, with three graduate members of staff, works to a 1:8 ratio most of the time, but uses 1:3 on some occasions to support practice.

Ark Academy, which works on a 1:10 ratio, said its ratios fluctuate depending on child numbers on a given day and children's individual needs.

The NDNA case studies demonstrate the amount of responsibility settings give graduates. At Advantage Day Nursery in Surbiton, graduates co-ordinate practice for all ages, while at Matchbox Nursery in Tower Hamlets one graduate works with the under-twos and is in charge of a team of ten staff, while another is in charge of a team of 17. Both graduates also support and mentor other staff at the setting and identify training to meet their needs.

At York Montessori Nursery, which operates two settings, most of the graduate staff are room leaders. Two other graduates are managers and supernumerary.

Some of the graduates have undertaken special projects, such as a project to improve physical education, which has forged links with the local primary school and its forest school.

St Thomas Centre Nursery in Birmingham believes the combination of graduate level pedagogy, and leadership and management across the team, has led to outstanding and consistent provision throughout the nursery.

Advantage Day Nursery said its graduate members of staff are more reflective practitioners with a greater understanding of why they are doing things, and also have more knowledge about child development.

York Montessori Nursery claimed its graduates have a better overview of nursery life, a greater sense of responsibility and increased confidence.

Owner of York Montessori Nursery Helen Gration said, 'I have a desire to continually reflect on and improve our practice. The investment in EYTs across the nursery rooms has proven to do just that, as well as benefiting the whole staff team.

'By giving the EYTs internal projects on areas we want to enhance, such as physical education and the tracking of children's development, we have seen an overall benefit to staff knowledge and an improving sense of professionalism.'

Purnima Tanuku, NDNA chief executive, said, 'The case studies demonstrate how to utilise flexibility to full effect, ensuring quality is not compromised and deployment of staff is maintained within the remit of the current EYFS. However, the studies also clearly demonstrated that meeting the needs of children does not lend itself to flexible deployment over a full day.

'We also need to note that while almost all the providers taking part saw benefits to employing graduates, there is less evidence to support increasing ratios where graduates are present.'