NURSERIES and childminders will be allowed to look after more children as part of coalition efforts to cut childcare costs.

Staff are to be able to take charge of six two-year-olds rather than four while the ratio for under-ones will go up from three to four.

Education minister Liz Truss is to outline the changes, which have been criticised as lowering standards, as part of reforms that will see higher qualifications required of those caring for pre-schoolers.

However, ministers have still not finalised a much heralded wider shake-up of childcare funding and tax breaks.

Britain has some of the highest childcare costs in the world, meaning many mothers with two or more children find it does not make financial sense to work.

Ms Truss will tell an event at the Policy Exchange think-tank that the Government wants to introduce graduate-level Early Years teachers.

An Early Years Educator qualification will also be created, requiring practical experience and at least a C grade in English and maths GCSE.

But she is to insist that better wages are needed to improve the system in England, pointing out that nursery staff only earn £6.60 per hour on average.

Hailing the example of France, Ms Truss will say that easing rules on ratios can give nurseries the "headroom to pay higher salaries". "We have learned from other countries that deliver better-value and better-quality childcare," she will say.

Ofsted's director of early childhood, Sue Gregory, said: "Ofsted welcomes the Government's proposals to drive up further the quality of early education and childcare.

“We particularly welcome plans to introduce more rigorous training and qualifications for those working with young children.

“Sir Michael Wilshaw will be making an announcement in the spring about how Ofsted plans to drive up standards in the early years sector through its inspection and improvement activity, particularly in the most deprived areas."

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