The Consultation is Here, Get Talking!

June 5th 2023

As a sector, we can sometimes come across as a bit split.

Copyright Darren Fletcher Photography – Commissioned by The Sun

This may be because we are part of the “market” which means we can be pitched against each other as we must sell our goods /places quickly and at the best price in the competitive marketplace.


I am therefore suggesting we now think like a cooperative or a social enterprise where the social purpose is the most important thing for us and it will be achieved through cooperation and collaboration.


Therefore, we need to agree a mutually beneficial solution to address the chronic recruitment and retention situation. A group of us (including the membership organisations) have approached the Department for Education (DfE) to consider some suggestions and feedback from the sector. The DfE says it has listened and the proposed changes are to ensure we can operate successfully by alleviating known burdens and increasing flexibility so that staff can focus on providing children in their care with high-quality early education, as well as having opportunities to progress their own careers.

We now have a consultation to consider 28 proposed changes – 13 of which are specific to childminders so pay attention to all of those most relevant to you. We need a conversation across all the various Facebook groups and Twitter and at staff meetings and in the staff room. We need to understand the issues and the consequences of every decision we make. We did this when we set up the OBC which celebrates its Tenth anniversary this year. It opened a conversation that got us some changes and brought us together in a way that surprised Ofsted. So now let’s do this together.

The consultation changes which are specific to childminders are here:

  • Section 1: Learning and Development (1.7 – 1.10)
  • Section 2: Assessment (2.7-2.8) & (2.9-2.14)
  • Section 3: Safeguarding and Welfare (3.4-3.5), 3.9, 3.17, 3.24, 3.25, 3.27, 3.58, 3.62, 3.77

I have picked out the six changes which concern me the most:
Number The Situation Now Potential Change in the Consultation My thoughts about the implications


Section 1: Learning and Development (1.13) English as an Additional Language. The EYFS currently states that ‘For children whose home language is not English, providers must take reasonable steps to provide opportunities for children to develop and use their home language in play and learning, supporting their language development at home.’ DfE is consulting on whether to change this requirement from “must” to “should” or “may” in both versions of the EYFS. Altering the language to “should” would mean providers would be expected to meet the requirement unless they have good reason not to. Altering the language to “may” would mean we will no longer be requiring practitioners to do this, but instead encourage them to decide themselves how to best support children with English as an Additional Language.


The aim of this change is to alleviate what could be an unreasonable request of some providers if the practitioner(s) do not speak any language other than English, especially if multiple children have different home languages. It also may allow settings to spend more time focusing on the acquisition of English, as we know there is evidence that the longer a child with English as an Additional Language spends in an English-based setting, the stronger their fluency and competency with English language becomes Very sensible.

Many settings especially in urban areas will have several home languages so expecting us to develop all these languages is utter madness.  Home language is best taught properly at home and our job is to teach the children proper grammatically correct English.

Having staff who are bi lingual can be a help to parents and build bridges with them but pedagogically our job is to teach the children.

Section 3: Safeguarding and Welfare (3.9) Suitable People DfE intends to add a clarification to state that while qualifications must be verified, employees do not have to provide physical copies of their qualifications.


The clarification is intended to tackle the known issue of some settings refusing to accept digital copies of certificates. Our Compliance Manager is having a heart attack given the increased risk of fraud and the implications for safeguarding!
Section 3: Safeguarding and Welfare (3.28) Level 2 Qualification We intend to support providers to staff their settings more effectively by reducing some of the regulatory restrictions regarding the percentage of level 2 qualified staff required per ratio. This change would only be applicable to paragraphs 3.32, 3.33, 3.35, and 3.37 of the EYFS where there is an existing requirement that, alongside the staff to child ratio per age group and the level 3 qualification

We are consulting on proposals to reduce the percentage of level 2 qualified staff within these ratios, removing the requirement for ‘at least half’ and changing this to a smaller percentage (for example, 30% or 40% of all other staff).

FOR EXAMPLE – The EYFS currently sets out that, for children aged two: there must be at least one member of staff for every four children at least one member of staff must hold an approved level 3 qualification, at least half of all other staff must hold an approved level 2 qualification Proposed new wording: there must be at least one member of staff for every four children at least one member of staff must hold an approved level 3 qualification at least [30%] [40%] of all other staff must hold an approved level 2 qualification


The aim of this change is to enable setting managers to deploy existing staff within the ratios more flexibly, thereby removing one barrier to recruitment and retention OK, so this is tough!

You often hear people say their Level 2 staff are very experienced and capable and have more understanding and common sense than newly qualified Level 3 staff.

But that is not the issue, the question is can they support the children’s learning and development when we know the better you are qualified the more likely the quality of the pedagogy.

On the other hand, is it better that the manager has the freedom to delegate staff according to their knowledge of the children rather than their qualification.  Is it better to have a warm engaged staff member with a Level 2 than a disengaged agency staff member who is there because she has a Level 3 qualification?

Should we limit this to certain times of the day? Such as 8 to 10 and 4 to 6 so more qualified Level 3 plus staff are on site from 10 to 4 to lead the curriculum.  Would this fail to recognise that teaching happens from the moment a child arrives?

Section 3: Safeguarding and Welfare (3.28, footnote 33) New Route to Becoming Qualified – Experience-Based Route

The DfE intends to introduce a new experience-based route for practitioners to gain approved status to work within staff:child ratios. This new route would be available to practitioners holding a qualification identified as meeting most of the relevant Level 3 Early Years Educator criteria. As with the ‘overseas adaptation route’ candidates would meet missing criteria by working in their setting whilst under the supervision of a senior member of staff. The manager will be required to submit evidence to the DfE that the missing criteria have been met for the practitioner to become approved to count in the ratio. Once approved, these practitioners would be eligible to count within the Level 3 staff: child ratios, though they would not gain a formal qualification.


The aim of these changes is to allow more staff to enter and progress within the early years workforce, while maintaining quality, thereby removing barriers to recruitment and retention. Not sure what this is about, it makes no sense if you do not end up with a qualification.  Let’s look carefully at how this would help.?

Would a Level 2 be better?

Could we have a Level 3 qualification which is designed with inbuilt steps towards a Level 3 full qualification?



Section 3: Safeguarding and Welfare (3.28, footnote 34) Maths Qualification – the DfE intends to explore removing the requirement for level 3 practitioners to hold a level 2 maths qualification to count within staff: child ratios. This follows feedback from the sector that the requirement is disproportionate to the maths skills and knowledge needed to support young children’s learning and development. We have also heard concerns that it is leading to difficulties with the recruitment and retention of staff. The requirement would instead be moved to managers, given their responsibility for quality in their setting. The requirement for managers would apply to anyone entering a manager role. Managers already in post at the time of this regulatory change would be exempt, however they would be required to obtain the relevant qualification should they subsequently move to a different manager role. There would be a two-year grace period to gain the qualification following appointment to a manager role. Managers would be responsible for ensuring their staff have the right maths skills and knowledge to deliver the EYFS curriculum effectively.


The aim of this change is to enable talented practitioners with a natural aptitude for working with young children to progress with their career in the early years sector. Removing this regulatory barrier would also grant early years settings greater flexibility when deploying staff, allowing them to make full use of the valuable skills and experience of their existing workforce. Now is the opportunity to be radical!

Let’s design an equivalent qualification called Maths in the Early Years.  Created to teach staff how to teach maths to small children. It would help build the capability of staff, improve the children’s experiences and no longer would we confuse subitise with subsidise!

Include an essential unit called Personal Budgeting, addressing some of the challenges many staff have managing their own budget.

If only the Manager has the Maths Functional Skills qualification or GCSE Maths (c) then succession planning may be problematic down the line.

Lots of Managers are themselves anxious about teaching maths effectively so let’s do something radical now.

Section 3: Safeguarding and Welfare (3.30) Ratios: students and apprentices The DfE intends to clarify guidance on allowing students on long-term placements and apprentices to count within ratios, if the provider is satisfied that they are competent and responsible. Students and apprentices studying towards an approved Level 3 qualification will be allowed to count in the Level 2 staff: child ratio, whilst those working towards an approved Level 6 qualification will be allowed to count in the Level 3 ratio. This will allow trainees opportunity to gain relevant experience, helping them to meet practical assessments and improve work-readiness. The aim of these changes is to allow more staff to enter and progress within the early years workforce, while maintaining quality, thereby removing barriers to recruitment and retention. Students and apprentices are in ratio now after a certain period so, think carefully about the free for all approach.

I can see some settings having a room full of unqualified apprentices overseen by one qualified staff. It’s risky!

I would set a baseline for consideration as well as requesting evidence of a staff plan to support the student / apprentice demonstrate their pathway to becoming they are competent and responsible.



On the subject of the OPTIONAL usage of a ratio for two-years-olds of 1: 5, here are the current rules:

A provider must always meet the staff:child ratio and qualification requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). The EYFS set the minimum legal requirements regarding ratios and qualifications. However, providers do have flexibility in the way they deploy staff but in doing so must always meet children’s individual needs.
Providers must meet the qualification and ratio requirements in respect of the whole provision but do not necessarily have to meet them in each and every room they operate from. Instead, providers must be able to demonstrate that children’s needs are met through such deployment. Some activities will require more staff then the other and we expect providers to use their staff flexibly to meet such needs while giving children continuity of care. For example, sleeping children require regular checking but do not need staffing ratios to be met in the sleeping area, whereas some activities such as using large climbing apparatus require much supervision. When deciding on ratios and deployment, providers may wish to consider whether:

  • Minimum overall ratios requirements are met
  • Qualified and unqualified staff are deployed purposefully
  • Children receive sufficient support and care for their individual needs
  • Risk assessments are in place for significant factors
  • Emergency arrangements are sufficient for example in the event of a fire
  • Arrangements are in place for staff absences
  • Appropriate arrangements are in place for parent/volunteer rotas
  • Appropriate arrangements for supervision of students/any unvetted adults

It is also important to note the EYFS now includes the specific requirement that –

Children must usually be within sight and hearing of staff and always within sight or hearing.

In the case of free flow play between indoors and outdoors it will be for providers to show that the arrangements they have in place for ensuring children are safe, well cared for and are supported in their learning, are suitable taking into consideration the movement of children between environments.


Other Government Promises

There is an Information pack including a summary of the consultation proposals. The information pack also explains the changes that will be made to the EYFS in September 2023, subject to parliamentary procedure, to 2 year old staff to child ratios and supervision while eating following consultation in 2022.

The Department for Education will also launch a new national campaign early next year to support the recruitment and retention of talented staff. Alongside this, we will consider how to introduce new accelerated apprenticeship and degree apprenticeship routes so everyone from junior staff to senior leaders can easily move into a career in the sector.

Later this month (from 28 June), the Department for Work and Pensions will raise the amount that parents in Great Britain can claim back monthly for their childcare costs on Universal Credit up to £951 for one child and £1,630 for two or more children. This a rise of 47% from the previous limits of £646 for one child or £1,108 for two or more children. At the same time, the Government will help eligible parents cover the costs for the first month’s childcare when they enter work or significantly increase their hours. This means many parents will get help from DWP immediately with their first bill – instead of in arrears – to help them manage their budgets.  Massive boost to childcare payments marks first step in largest ever expansion of childcare – GOV.UK

A free online training programme has been created with subject matter experts and universally accessible to the Early Years workforce. There 5 modules already available covering child and brain development, personal, social and emotional development, physical development and language development. A further 4 modules will be released during 2023 including one focused on Mathematics. Early Years Child Development training

The Professional Development Programme phase 3 (PDP3) provides Early Years practitioners with training on communication and language, early mathematics and personal, social and emotional development. PDP3 is available within all local authorities in England and recruitment for the second cohort of trainees, commencing their training in September 2023, is currently underway.

The Stronger Practice Hubs and Experts and Mentors programme offer a range of support and development for settings. You can find out more about all the offers at Early years education recovery programme: supporting the sector – GOV.UK


You have until the 26th July 2023 to respond to the consultation via the Citizen Space platform. Any further questions can be directed to