If you are a regular reader you’ve probably sussed me out by now. I put one or two short, pithy posts up each week, and then build myself up to a more considered researched piece one a week. A few weeks ago now I started to sketch out a post on childcare issues, knowing that The Ministry had some News for us and that debate would kick off soon enough. I still have my sketches, but I have also been utterly pre-occupied with the pronouncements around changing ratios, levels of qualification and how it is all regulated over the last 24 hours. And I don’t feel like writing a steady, informative piece. I feel like just tapping, just connecting my heart and my arguments to the screen and not stopping till it’s all out.
Why does the very concept of someone else caring for our children even exist? Because, sometimes out of choice, but more often out of necessity, parents find the only way they forward is to let someone else look after their child for a part of the working day. And really, underneath all this chattering about qualification levels, professionalisation and raising wages, when a parent hands their child over to another human being all they want is their child to be 1) as safe as they would be with mum or dad, 2) cared for with affection and fondness, and 3) for their child to spend their time occupied as much they might at home. When parents set out to find a childcarer, they focus in entirely on trying to find a place that will meet these criteria.
It is incredibly hard to hand over our children. The worry and the guilt are immense. And rightly so, in a funny sort of way. There is nothing more important than deciding who should be there for your kids when you can’t be. The trust you are required to summon up is superhuman.
None of what is coming out of The Ministry shows any serious concern about what is right for children, or pays any regard to the criteria I have outlined above. Every major study in the last 70 years, and every serious theorist about attachment and development, from Bowlby onwards, has talked about children under 5 needing to feel close and connected to a small number of significant adults. These adults must be reliable, consistent, and able to empathise with their complex needs. The changes proposed to ratios are utterly at odds with all that we know about children’s emotional and developmental needs. In essence , that’s all I have to say. These proposals have been constructed without a moment’s consideration for the people they will most affect. That is all you need to know about them to oppose them, although I urge you to get on to twitter and read the marvellous proliferation of blogs and articles that are pouring forth. I’m hoping they will gather into the most thunderous of waterfalls that metaphorically drowns the whole silly nonsense out.
I will return to my more usual bloggin’ self and write my childcare post soon enough. And do recognise my little rant for what it is, someone saying stuff they really mean about something they really care about.