Changes to childcare: why 2 year olds and 6:1 = bad maths

I’m sure you’ve heard the news today about the changes to childcare regulations, in short, childcare providers will now be able to have one adult to four one year olds or six two year olds. The idea is this will lower childcare fees so more women can work and pay the bills. The somewhat less publicised news is that tomorrow is my last day in paid employment. I can not currently afford to work. And I still think these changes are an appalling idea.

Here’s the story of Kate, the story behind the news story. Tomorrow is my last day at work. I am 33, degree educated and work in management in local government. I, along with every other part time worker in my office, am being made redundant. (Quickly checks liable laws, nope, that one’s a fact.) I have looked for other jobs, I honestly have, but the only part time work I can find simply does not pay enough to cover my childcare, petrol, and the occasional pair of trousers smart enough to wear in an office. I do not want to work full time, that’s my decision as a parent but its very important to both me and my husband.

Having done the maths we have worked out that basically we will be better off if I get a Saturday job in a supermarket. I’m not super keen on this idea, not just due to my pride but as my husband works for a church he quite often has to work on Sundays which means we would have no time together as a family. That’s not healthy either so chances are I will stay at home. This isn’t financially great for us. The husband runs a homeless centre, that hardly means we’re living the city-boy lifestyle.

And yet as the mother of a two year old I still totally disagree with the 1:6 ratio. Totally. For a start, I don’t believe for a second that it will reduce childcare costs. Remember when they lowered VAT and suddenly everything was meant to get cheaper? Do you remember anything actually getting cheaper? No, me neither. Secondly, here’s a quick run down of what my toddler did yesterday:

Walked around town very nicely holding my hand

Put the shopping on the converter-belt so nicely it was commented upon by strangers

Let go of my hand for two seconds, ran off, got knocked into a post by an automatic door and got his leg trapped under it (that was fun)

Did some colouring in

Sat on my lap and sucked his thumb

Held a toy truck above a seven month old’s head with intent

Pushed me repeatedly into the kitchen so he could hunt down the back of the sofa where I’d hidden his Batman DVD’s

At no point did I think, “damn, if only I had five of his friends round today, things would be so much easier!” My son loves his childminder, I love his childminder. But no one can deal with six two year olds all day every day. Day in, day out. Six two year olds do not fit in a buggy. Six two year olds can not all hold your hand when you cross the road. Six two year olds certainly can’t all fit in a car for a trip out of the house (unless nurseries and childminders now drive stretch limos)

Liz Truss has two children. I’d love to know what ratio she’d be happy with if they were being looked after. I expect that hers would still be in a 1:3 while the poor, the stretched middle, you know, the rest of us, are expected to be happy that their child is in 1:6 childcare

I would like to work, but if this is the option that the government is leaving open to parents like me then I guess I’m going to have to learn to make ends meet as a stay at home parent. Ultimately, my son will always be of number one importance to me, and that’s a statistic that I don’t intend on changing.


  1. 29th January 2013 / 12:22 pm

    I sometimes think politicians come from a different planet. Cancel the SETI programme. We’ve already been invaded.

    • Kate
      29th January 2013 / 12:28 pm

      I have not heard from a single parent yet who thinks this is a good idea….

  2. 29th January 2013 / 12:34 pm

    I suspect there will be far more TV watched round the childminders with a ratio like that. Totally agree with you. Ridiculous.

  3. 29th January 2013 / 1:50 pm

    I totally agree with you. I read Liz Truss’s piece on Mumsnet and shuddered – there was no mention of what is best for children among all this.

    Parents who can afford it will be pushed into paying top-ups to maintain ratios, while those who can’t will have no choice but to accept places where their children will spend their days as you suggest. I wonder how much of this is aimed at suddenly making state funding (eg for disadvantaged 2 year olds) go magically further.

    Cynical, short sighted and depressing.

  4. 29th January 2013 / 4:48 pm

    I agree with you. Even the most patient people are going to struggle with 6 2 year olds!

    • Kate
      30th January 2013 / 9:12 am

      Quite frankly, anyone who can cope with 6 two year olds five days a weeks deserves a knighthood or a sainthood!

  5. 29th January 2013 / 7:37 pm

    TBH, and maybe it is because it’s my personal choice, but I think it is better if one parent can stay at home – or both work part time. I think they should make it more of an option – especially for mothers who wish to breastfeed for the recommended minimum 2 years.

    I hope you enjoyed your time as a SAHM

    • Kate
      30th January 2013 / 9:14 am

      Thank you, I’m rather looking forward to it now! It would be good if there was more to support parents to stay at home, our children are the future taxpayers of this country, it makes sense to invest in them.

  6. 29th January 2013 / 8:23 pm

    Six 2 year olds! Six!! I’m with you on this Kate – I had 2 under the age of 2 and it took me 6 months to be able to get out and about twice in one day. Boy, that was a proud day! ‘We managed to get out this morning, we managed to get out this afternoon!’.

    The ‘saving’ will not be passed on I’m sure, it will just get absorbed.

    And yes, as for the cost, in London, it was impossible to pay nursery costs for 2 small people and be self employed with irregular income. One thing I will say, it taught me to live in a different way. I’m grateful for that but on darker days I wonder what things would be like if I had been able to continue my career through those pre-school years.

    • Kate
      30th January 2013 / 9:16 am

      I have one two year old, it’s still rare for me to go out twice in one day! I don’t imagine for one second that the ‘saving’ will be passed on either to parents or to nursery staff. If Tescos make more money, the staff there don’t earn more. It’s all business, sadly.

  7. 29th January 2013 / 11:38 pm

    Completely agree with you. Absolutely barking. I have written very similar views and haven’t yet met anyone who thinks differently.

    • Kate
      30th January 2013 / 9:17 am

      Ooh, will go and have a look at yours in a bit! It’s such a shame because everyone agrees that we need to do ‘something’ about the cost of childcare, but this idea is so very wrong and so far away from what parents want.

  8. 30th January 2013 / 12:21 am

    I worked in an early years setting for eleven yrs before my son arrived and I know all those that work in those setting will be shuddering at this. How on earth can this be possibly safe for starters?! Really stupid!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *