What did the original regulatory impact statement say about the ratios?
When a Regulation is prepared a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) must also be prepared. The RIS must include an assessment of the costs and benefits of the Regulation, including the costs and benefits relating to resource allocation, administration and compliance. The Initial Regulatory Impact Statement on the Draft Children’s Services Regulation 2002 was prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers in December 2002.
It had the following to say on the (then) proposed 1:4 ratio.
"The rationale for the change in ratios is based on more than 30 years of child development research and is supported by the more recent research in relation to child brain development (most of the development in the intelligence of children occurs before the age of 7 years and most of the growth of brain cells occurs before the age of 2 years). The key contributing components of quality in child care are the ratio of staff to children, the numbers of children in the group in which they are cared for and the qualifications of staff. Of these components research has consistently identified the staff:child ratio as the most important contributing factor.
The effects of child care on outcomes for children have been the subject of extensive research over the last 50 years. The area that has received the most attention has been the effect of child care on the development of children aged from birth to 2 years.
The research findings in this area have shown remarkable consensus with ratios below 1:5 leading to the best outcomes for young children. Reflecting a concern for outcomes for this vulnerable group both Queensland and Western Australia’s regulations now require a ratio of 1:4. This ratio is also consistent with the current practice of major employing bodies in NSW.
A High/Scope Perry preschool study has indicated that children who receive high-quality, active learning child care at ages 3 and 4 have improved social development outcomes.(1) Another study comments:
Adult-child ratio affects children because as the number of children per adult increases, the opportunity for sensitive or appropriate interaction between the adult and each child decreases. (2)
While a better ratio tends to make quality care a more likely outcome, the available research also indicates that it is not a necessary or sufficient condition for quality care. For instance, some adults (particularly highly educated and well-trained teachers) can apply routines, rituals and peer cohesiveness to manage large numbers of children without compromising the quality of staff and child interaction. However for other less qualified adults, large group sizes may lead to restrictive and harsh practices. (3)
It should be noted that the results of this research have been interpreted in different ways by different stakeholders in the child care industry. However, common sense would suggest that the more carers available to share the care of a group of children, the better the expected outcomes for individual children – the key question becoming where the optimal trade off in benefits and costs can be achieved.
A staff-child ratio of 1:5 is presently applied in the ACT, Victoria, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and South Australia. Queensland and Western Australia are the only States, which presently apply a 1:4 ratio. (4)
Limited preliminary discussions with some peak bodies suggested that a ratio of 1:3 would be ideal but that 1:4 may be the smallest size possible to remain cost effective. Other service providers suggested that 1:5 was sufficient to achieve equivalent quality outcomes."