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  1. 1. Nurseries can look after morechildrenRise from three to four pre-school children per staffmember as restrictions on registered childmindersalso liftedPatrick Wintour, political editor The Guardian, 29thJan 2013Elizabeth Truss, the early years minister, will propose that childminders should be allowed tolook after four children. Photograph: Gary Calton For The Observer/Gary CaltonA relaxation in the number of pre-school children that nurseries and registered childminderscan oversee will be announced on Tuesday as part of a move to professionalise the pre-schoolworkforce and cut the cost of childcare in England.Elizabeth Truss, the early years minister, is to propose that childminders, currently restricted tolooking after three children per staff member from the ages of one to five inclusive, should beallowed in future to look after four children. They would also be permitted to look after twochildren under one year of age, instead of the current one.Truss will seek to allay parents fears of their children being neglected by over-pressed staff,pointing out that the relaxation she proposes still leaves more restrictive ratios than Denmark,France and Germany – three countries often seen as providing high quality care for pre-schoolchildren. The minister will quote experts claiming that in Britain more qualifications are neededto look after animals than toddlers.She is also proposing that nurseries be allowed to relax their ratios when qualified staff arepresent, so that instead of one staff member to four children aged two, the number would riseto one to six. In the case of one-year-olds, the permitted staff to child ratios would rise from thecurrent one-to-three, to one-to-four. The ratios would rise further if a fully-qualified teacher ispresent. She will also relax how these rules are interpreted.The flexibility has been welcomed by many childminders organisations, but labelled"unacceptable and a recipe for disaster" by the Pre-School Learning Alliance, the largestrepresentative organisation of early years providers.The Department for Education said the proposals were dependent on staff possessing higherqualifications, including Grade C GCSE maths and English. The DfE said: "Englands relativelytight ratios have two main effects: higher costs for parents and lower pay for staff. In turn, low