Ministers copped out of responsibilities again today, throwing growing childcare problems at the feet of nurseries and child-minders who will be expected to look after more children.
Instead of investing in the future of children the cuts-crazy coalition expects every staff member to take charge of six two-year-olds rather than four - while the ratio for under-ones will go up from three to four.
The changes - widely seen as lowering standards - were outlined by Education Minister Liz Truss as part of reforms that will see higher qualifications required of those caring for pre-schoolers.
She said ratios for over-three would remain at eight or 13 children per adult - depending on whether a qualified graduate was present.
Britain has some of the highest childcare costs in the world, meaning many mothers with two or more children find it does not make financial sense to work.
Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said the plans threatened child safety and would not reduce costs.
He said: "This government has created an affordability crisis by cutting support and pushing up costs for parents."
The Pre-School Learning Alliance was "absolutely appalled" and called the proposals a "recipe for disaster," pointing to a recent survey of childcare practitioners which found 94 per cent were against ratio changes.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Deregulating childcare is not the solution. It will not reduce costs and instead risks reducing the quality of care. We need significant investment in childcare."
And teaching union NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates dismissed Ms Truss's claims that the changes would allow childminders to push for higher wages.
"It is more likely that any increased revenues will simply be diverted to increasing profit margins," she said.
National Union of Teachers general secretary Christine Blower added: "Parents know that changing the ratio will make the job harder for adults and the experience less tailored to the needs of the child."
A "deeply concerned" Unison pointed out that in three months last year three children tragically died in nurseries and there is no central register of nursery accidents.
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