CHILDCARE providers in South Tyneside have pledged not to change their staffing levels in line with Government policy.
Nurseries and childminders in England are to be allowed to look after more children, in a package ministers say will improve quality and cut costs.
But critics, including the bosses of three borough nurseries, warn the change in ratios could actually compromise quality of care.
Ratios are set to rise from three to four children per adult for under-ones and from four to six children per adult for two-year-olds.
The ratios for three-year-olds and over would remain at eight or 13 children per adult, depending on whether a qualified graduate was present.
Brian Powell, a director of Ashfield Nurseries and Early Learning Centres Ltd, which has two premises in South Shields, described the proposals as “unworkable”.
“It is going to reduce overheads and costs, but to the detriment of the children,” he said.
“There is no way I am changing my ratios to save money.”
Eamonn Gribben, who owns Noah’s Ark Nursery and Westoe Village Kindergarten in South Shields and Noah’s Ark Nursery in Hebburn, agrees.
He said: “We find that a 1:3 ratio is difficult enough because a young infant needs a lot of attention.
“They are vulnerable, they can’t tell you what’s wrong and they need constant monitoring.
“I feel it would be wrong to increase that ratio to 1:4. I will not be changing it.”
Sheila Turnbull, owner of Jarrow Day Nursery in Western Road, Jarrow, said: “We have been running private nurseries for 12 years and we are totally against these proposals.
“It totally undermines all the recent progress on giving children high quality childcare and nursery education and could put children at risk.”
The ratio of children to carers can only be raised if the latter’s qualifications meet new standards.
Children’s minister Liz Truss says the changes will bring the UK in line with countries such as France and Sweden.
She added: “It will take time to recruit new people and expand nurseries. In the long term, it will be more affordable.”