Today the news reported that Liz Truss has written to all schools asking them to extend their opening hours to allow two-year-olds to attend for longer periods than the usual 9am to 3pm times. It’s not new news; we covered it before in another post here.
By schools offering hours which mirror the working day, the government believes it will offer more childcare places which will then enable mothers to go back into work and, they say, will prevent children from disadvantaged backgrounds from slipping further behind.
Firstly, it makes sense, or at least to the government coffers. Mum works and pays tax. The childminders or schools to which their children are farmed out pay tax. It’s a win-win situation. More childcare plus fewer excuses for Mum to stay at home and care for her own child equals more money for the good of the country.
They play the disadvantaged kid card. Let me be honest (which may not make me popular), and say that those children who are truly disadvantaged will still be returning to the homes which make them so. Poor, as in not having much spare money, does not equate to poor parenting. There are many parents who live to a tight, limited budget who are attentive, supportive and pretty damn good parents. The goverment would do better to support and educate parents who struggle academically, so they themselves can help their children. The well-meaning determination may be there for them, but the practical support needs to be offered too, instead of deeming them too incapable of turning their lives around.
Sadly, there are a few who are not – regardless of income. The children who are disadvantaged because of circumstances of abuse, disinterest or neglect will still be living within that environment the rest of the time. This isn’t a matter of education. It’s a general welfare matter which needs to be addressed. And can we honestly say that the handful of those who use the ‘can’t afford to work’ argument (because no matter how strong the denials, they do exist), are the ones who will want to make use of the extra spare time they suddenly have when their children are being cared for elsewhere by finding jobs or will they simply use it to pursue their own hobbies, interests or to catch up with daytime TV free from interruptions?
The government (and though this current move is backed by the Conservatives, it was also an aim of Labour’s also, so I’m not attacking any particular party but the government as a whole), claims that it will address the childcare crisis. I don’t disagree with that. There is definitely a childcare crisis. The crisis isn’t that there isn’t enough childcare for them, but that parents aren’t able to care for their own children themselves, due to the lesser-mentioned cost of living crisis.
A majority of mothers want to be at home to raise their own children during their early years. I’m not criticising mothers who want to work, merely stating the case that the majority are forced into the situation through the costs of living.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: instead of throwing money at institutions, why can’t more be done to help parents raise their own children instead of outsourcing their care?
House prices have spiralled uncontrollably, utility companies hold us to ransom and 60% of fuel costs are made up of duty and VAT, making an approximate £1.42 of fuel from what should be only 53 pence. It’s a case of needs must for many, but at what cost?
The cynic in me also questions why there is this ever-growing determination to gain control of our children at younger and younger ages. The younger, the more impressionable, perhaps?
With this increasing outsourcing of childcare from family to institutions we run the risk of future generations not knowing what a family unit is or how it works. Pushing parents to work more, earn more, pay more is not the way forward. Establishments cannot offer love, care and guidance to a child in the same way parents can, and this care is fundamental to a child’s development, both in the short and long term.
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. The government knows that. It’s about time parents realised it too.