Ratio revolution?

Rumour has it the former early years minister, and now prime minister, Liz Truss is considering ditching the recently proposed tweaks to adult: child ratios and axing them altogether.  An article published in The Times (7 October) suggested Truss is up for getting rid of regulations and leaving it up to childcare settings to decide how many staff they need to work with children in their care.  Cue instant, predictable, and justifiable outrage from those working in early years roles, and those speaking on their behalf.  I knew something was going on.  My end of the week inbox was sparking up like the fifth of November, my Twitter feed was pinging like a supermarket checkout.  People started asking me ‘what could we do?’

Now, early years and childcare certainly needs reform.  I have written much about that. We all need to take a good hard look at what we have been doing so far, what we have been asked, nay required, to do, what we need to do now, and what our collective long-term vision is.  And that includes critically reviewing all the anachronisms that govern our work, and the unhelpful incremental conditions placed upon us over the past decades.  We don’t always need to be told what to do, as we know best.  I am convinced of that.

To move forward together necessitates a thorough examination of the literature and research we have amassed in the UK and beyond our borders across the world.  We must use that to have an informed debate, based on all the evidence, and our maturing professional expertise.  That debate also needs to be constructive, respectful, visionary, ambitious, and confident in the knowledge the role of early years has been secured in the public’s, politicians’, and policy-makers’ awareness, value, and expectation – forever.  That is why we launched hey! this summer (Hempsall’s Early Years) and we made it our mission to do what we can to help all our future dreams. 

Many battles have been fought, some have even been won.  But, the war is far from over.  Whilst many are demanding, expecting, and relying upon us for better outcomes and impact, they don’t fully appreciate the inputs and outputs needed to make that happen.  And guess what?  Those with the power won’t just wake up one day and experience a moment of sudden and great revelation of such understanding.  They are more likely to pose more and more random ideas and headline grabbing funding or voucher offers.  Instead, it is our job and solemn responsibility, no duty, to help them realise sense and resource what our profession needs to properly and equally work with our youngest children and their families. 

It will not be easy.  To effectively influence and make the change we need, we must avoid the pitfall of conflict and assemble around the table to build and speak a common language, adopt an informed and evidenced approach, and create sound policy decisions that we can all work within.  For now, for the future, and for the benefit of children and families, and those dedicated and committed to working in early years and childcare.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

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