This shows that the new government is just as keen as previous ones to pay for children to be looked after by anyone other than their own parents.
One long-time FTM member says:
Perhaps we could look at a more imaginative system, instead of free childcare entitlement for all three- and four-year olds. For example, you could look at a voucher/credit system for parents . The vouchers could be redeemed either a) immediately to access free, quality childcare for those parents who want or need it in the pre-school years OR b) deferred until the middle years under a kind of credit system so that parents who don’t feel comfortable with childcare so very early on in the child’s life can use the vouchers later, in order to help fund holiday care/clubs or even to help pay for music lessons, swimming lessons, drama clubs, transport, ‘free’ school meals, etc. Not every young child is suited to early childcare from age two and not every parent believes this is the best that can be provided for their individual child’s needs.
If we support choice for parents it can only be a good thing – and it would also spread the benefit through from early years into the middle years when lots of children are more ‘school-ready’.
I am not sure about the rationale behind the present system of encouraging more childcare in the early years – I presume it’s a combination of encouraging mothers/fathers back to work and also to provide a ‘stimulating’ , structured environment for the child so that they are apparently better prepared for formal schooling later (are they?). Trouble is there aren’t that many jobs for 12-15 hours per week term-time only.
Furthermore not all children want or benefit from a noisy group care environment – indeed it can mean the children have started formal care two or three years before even starting reception – and long before they’re potty trained which can be a stressful time for many toddlers. There’s a lot to be said about having a more peaceful start to life!
There are plenty of opportunities for stimulating activities when mothers (or fathers) go to play-and-stay sessions – or toddler singing groups – gym clubs etc – spending time together, getting to know the world together, bonding as a family.
Of course more family time is not always possible – but we should at least aspire to children having the very best possible start – and
I can’t help questioning whether our obsession with early group childcare is really progress in they way we raise our kids in the UK.