HC Deb 19 February 1998 vol 306 cc808-9W
Mr. Paice

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance his Department issues concerning the ratio of staff to pupils expected in(a) private and (b) local authority nursery classes for three to five year-olds. [30432]

Mr. Boateng

Early years settings registered with local authority social services departments under the Children Act 1989 to provide day care are expected to comply with the adult to child ratios set out in Guidance and Regulations issued by the Department. These recommend an adult to child ratio of 1:4 for children aged 2–3 years and 1:8 for children aged 3–8 years regardless of whether they are managed by the private sector or the local authority.

Under the Children Act 1989, where half the staff in these settings are qualified teachers (as recognised by department for Education and Employment) and support is provided by nursery assistants with qualifications in child care and education (and the setting is open during the school term to provide nursery education for 3–5 year olds), nurseries may apply a ratio of 2:26. I understand from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment that the Department of Education Circular 2/73 on nursery education in maintained schools recommends an adult to child ratio of 2:26 for nursery classes attached to primary schools where one adult is a qualified teacher and the other a qualified nursery assistant. It also suggests reception classes should make provision for 4 year olds comparable to that found in nursery classes. There are no recommended adult to child ratios for schools in the independent sector.

DfEE and the Department of Health will shortly issue a joint consultation document which tackles the current diverse arrangements for the regulation of early education and child care, including the issue of adult to child ratios. We intend to introduce a more uniform system of regulation following this consultation.