03 May 2013,
It's likely that few in the early years sector currently campaigning against the proposed relaxation of staff:child ratios realise that the mechanism to change them is in the Children and Families Bill now proceeding through Parliament.And indeed, Labour's amendment to the Bill aimed at enshrining the current ratios in law was voted down by 11 to 9 by the Children and Families Bill Committee.
An interesting insight into this process can be seen in Chris Skidmore MP's backbench diary in the Telegraph on 29 April. He expains that most of the committee's debate on the 300 or so proposed amendments was fairly well-tempered, but that there was a 'major row' over the ratios that went all the way to the vote.
Mr Skidmore's analysis of the case for ratio change, basically touting the Government line that low ratios mean high costs for parents and low pay for staff, will make steam come out of early years ears!
He claims that the ratios move is 'hardly without any support whatsoever', yet cites kidsunlimited and Ben Black of My Family Care as evidence of backing - the same few names given since the release of 'More Great Childcare', and even then kidsunlimited has rowed back on this.
You can read rather more convincing arguments from our columnists Nancy Stewart and Vidhya Alakeson opposite.
What's the next stage in the ratios fight? In terms of the Bill, it looks as though it's time to 'lobby a Lord'.