Make room for an extra pair of hands

I am writing in response to the feature 'By appointment' (29 April), which proposed that the secret of retaining good early years staff and preventing a high staff turnover could be training. I would like to suggest another reason for a high staff turnover, particularly in the private sector of full day care. In my experience as a day nursery owner and manager, I have found it incredible that senior management seems to fail to understand the value of an extra member of staff with regard to staff:child ratios. Too many nursery owners appear to see the Ofsted guidelines for staff:child ratios as a maximum and use it as a guide to employ as few staff as possible, whereas these guidelines should be seen as a bare minimum number of staff.

I am writing in response to the feature 'By appointment' (29 April), which proposed that the secret of retaining good early years staff and preventing a high staff turnover could be training. I would like to suggest another reason for a high staff turnover, particularly in the private sector of full day care.

In my experience as a day nursery owner and manager, I have found it incredible that senior management seems to fail to understand the value of an extra member of staff with regard to staff:child ratios. Too many nursery owners appear to see the Ofsted guidelines for staff:child ratios as a maximum and use it as a guide to employ as few staff as possible, whereas these guidelines should be seen as a bare minimum number of staff.

When the Ofsted guidelines are used as a maximum, nursery staff are stretched to breaking point. The result is young, untrained and newly qualified staff on low wages going through the motions, unable to take adequate breaks, and not having time to plan and reflect, complete course work and, most importantly, play with the children.

Changing nappies, feeding and cleaning override fun and play. Yet simply with having an extra member of staff, jobs can be divided, staff more relaxed, peers supported and jobs enjoyed.

These tight staff:child ratios cause nursery staff stress. Hence the number of days off sick, high staff turnover and low morale. Then standards start to fall and stress takes over.

Kate Rice

Little Feet Home Nursery, Great Bookham, Surrey

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