You are shown the ideal of childcare that works perfectly, is flexible, affordable and child focused – you then try and re-create this perfect creation in the safety of your own home only to discover that what looked like a spaceship looks rather more like a washing up liquid bottle badly decorated with some wonky cardboard
Or in the case of childcare that you have something that costs an eye watering amount, is held together by luck, good friends and a bit of sticky tape and that often feels to be something you have to endure in order to work rather than something that supports you as a working parent
Last week, thanks to Tots100, I joined a meeting between Education Minister Elizabeth Truss and a group of bloggers – it was interesting to hear what is being proposed and the whole process of launching a new strategy towards childcare has not been helped by internal wranglings having delayed the publication of the second part of the proposals, the one we all really care about, the one that focuses on making childcare affordable
I can see that they are trying to do some good things – to try and professionalise the childcare profession, to improve quality and to try and give a bit more wriggle room for common sense to prevail rather than rigid rules BUT and there is a fairly big but I’m not sure that the changes go far enough
There are still some fundamentals that aren’t touched on (and that’s before you consider that for some reason nannies fall entirely outside of everything proposed which is a big worry)
If we are really going to make the childcare profession better respected do we need more men working in childcare?
Raising children, undertaking full time care of children is demanding and all encompassing but rarely gets the credit it deserves. Perhaps one unforeseen upside of the current economic situation is the rising number of men getting involved in caring for children – perhaps if we start to educate both boys and girls that childcare can be a rewarding career we will get men to see it as something to be valued and, not only will we get the best people wanting to work in this sector, but also we will give it the respect it should be due – a virtuous circle as it were
I can understand why increasing the qualifications of carers is A Good Idea – yes there is evidence that the higher the level of educational achievement of the carer, the better the outcomes for the children in their care. But childcare is used differently by different people and not everyone wants or needs full day care where you definitely want professional care. One of the reasons childminders are so popular is that it is a more personal, a more family based method of childcare – sometimes what you want is the knowledge that another mum is going to be looking after your child – someone who can give hugs, a snack after school and some thought through activities but someone who is like a surrogate parent rather than a highly trained professional
I also worry that the reliance on the private sector creates a disconnect between what parents want, what these proposals suggest and what will happen – private nurseries need to make money and, whilst the higher ratios are only possible with better qualified staff you do worry whether it will mean higher costs to parents and yet fewer staff in the nurseries
The main thing I took away, apart from the fact that the minister does need to learn to listen rather than tell when she asks people in to hear their experiences, is that we all feel as if we are the only ones with childcare that is only just held together by luck and sticky tape but actually parents across every part of the country, across different types of childcare and in different circumstances are in exactly the same boat
This is wrong – surely, surely we can find something that fixes this horrid mess that leaves parents struggling to find workable childcare solutions?
Don’t we as parents deserve childcare that supports us and is both flexible and affordable?
If you want to read them, here are the proposals as they stand