Channel 4 Fact Check asks if Coalition plans for childcare would reduce costs for parents. Or would they increase profits for nursery chains?

Janet Downs's picture
It’s a central plank of the Coalition’s plans for early-years reform – that the UK is over-regulated. Removing the red tape and allowing bigger staff-child ratios, schools minister Elizabeth Truss says, will reduce child-care costs. This would bring the UK in line with other countries. And nursery staff would need to have at least Grade C in Maths and English.

Channel 4’s Fact Check looked at the figures and found other countries “don’t necessarily have less regulation and they’re not all happy with bigger carer-to-child rations (sic).”

Some of Truss’s statements were misleading, Fact Check found. For example, Truss said Denmark was a country with no official mandatory ratios. But this is only “true in the rather technical sense” since group size isn’t a legal requirement but something that childcare providers monitor. In fact, the Danish government carefully checks numbers and Christine Antorini, the Danish minister for children and education, recently announced extra funding to help Danish nurseries employ extra staff to keep ratios down. 

Fact Check posed two questions relating to the supposed reduced cost:

1 Wouldn’t employing better-qualified staff “cancel out the savings made from lower staff-to-children ratios?”

2 What is to prevent private nurseries, especially big chains backed by private equity, from extracting more profit while keep fees high?

The Fact Check ended: “So far there are no real answers to these questions. Essentially the government is trusting to market forces to make things more competitive, but there’s no real guarantee that fees will drop.”


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