By Harry Phibbs
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I give Miss Truss top marks for content – both for the policies she has presented and the solid reasoning she has given to justify them.
My only concern is her intonation. She has that habit (common to Australians) of raising the pitch in the final word of each sentence. Still, apparently people used to find Margaret Thatcher's voice annoying until Gordon Reece got to work on it.
Anyway Miss Truss has had some important backing from her proposed reforms today.
Ros Marshall, the chief executive of Kidsunlimited, the fifth largest childcare provider in the UK, says:
“We welcome the opportunities offered by the proposed changes to the statutory ratios. It seems to us right that responsible providers should have increased power of decision in this matter. It is a flexibility we propose to use cautiously, always in the interests of children and only after consultation with parents, as the level of qualifications of our staff rises.
“A flourishing early years sector is vital to the nation, and it is obvious that much needs to be done to build on the great strengths already there. I am encouraged by these moves, and to the consultation, involving both public and private sector providers, that lies behind it.”
John Woodward, Chief Executive of Busy Bees, the UK’s largest childcare nursery provider, with 213 nurseries nationwide, says:
“As we at Busy Bees continue to develop a national network of local nurseries, we agree that increased flexibility for providers will give more opportunity to deliver higher quality places and parental choice, and this should mean that women in particular feel more confident
about returning to work.
“We welcome initiatives that find ways of improving the quality of care and education provision in the UK, and the ways of making this provision affordable for every family.”
Ben Black, Director of My Family Care, said:
“As someone who employs 200 people across various childcare businesses, I feel passionately about the issues and about the changes proposed by the Government.
“Childcare in the UK is very heavily subsidised, ultimately by us taxpayers, in various over-complicated ways. And yet it remains expensive and unaffordable for many."
The CBI's head of policy Katja Hall said:
"Raising staff quality is the key to improving children's early development, so these measures are good news and increasing flexibility on child-to-staff ratios is one way of containing costs.
"Ministers need to be bolder if they are to tackle the rapidly rising costs and lack of places that parents face.
"The current £7 billion-a-year system of tax credits, free nursery hours, childcare vouchers and child benefit is overly complex and wasteful.
"It needs to be simplified and targeted better at pre-school children, when care is most expensive, tapering away as they get older."
If we are to return to strong economic growth this is just the kind of reform that is needed.