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Time for Parenting...

...because raising children is a full-time job

September 1999 Newsletter

From The Chair; Mothers feel undervalued; Educare = Daycare + Education; Back to work at 12 months; Full Time Mothers AGM and Open Meeting; "Supporting Families": the response; New members write .....; Farewell to the Family?; Your letters

Educare = Daycare + Education

But does it really add up?

This summer Education Minister Margaret Hodge announced the creation of a new branch of OFSTED which will be responsible for regulating and inspecting both childcare and early years education . At the same time, to allay the fears of parents and educationalists who expressed concern about putting four-year-olds into large reception classes, the Department is to spend £30 million on extra staff in 60 deprived areas. Supported by Inspector of Schools, Chris Woodhead, the Minister declared that the changes would provide consistency in daycare and early education.

Also planned is expansion of the number of nursery places for three-year-olds, combining the resources of public and private sectors. Following these announcements, more details have been given of the level of educational attainment which the Government expects three and four year olds to reach in their pre-school years.

Reactions have been mixed. Some commentators point out that the increase in staff ratios will not solve the problem of four year-olds being placed in reception classes before they are ready. Many playgroups have already been forced to close because of the lowered age of admission to these classes, and the process cannot easily be reversed.

Those parents who are keen to see their children in full-time education from the earliest possible age (and thereby 'off their hands') may be reassured to know that their children's "curriculum" will be regulated. But others are worried that children who are unready to fit into an institutional setting, are being forced into the rat-race too soon.

One of the experts to have expressed such reservations is Jacqui Cousins, speaker at FTM's forthcoming Open Meeting. Dr Cousins is a former nursery and infant teacher, OFSTED nursery inspector and early years lecturer. Now a free-lance researcher, she has recently published 'Listening to Four-Year-Olds' summarising her research for the Early Years Network on the impact of full-time education for young children.

Dr Cousins feels the increasing trend for both parents to work sometimes means that nobody has time to sit down and listen to what children have to say. In her words: "At school, the assumption was that children were getting this kind of special attention and quality time with an adult at home. But at home, the assumption was that they were getting it at school". Dr Cousins feels that children need to develop at their own pace and not to be placed in rigid learning structures. Also at our meeting will be Anne Henderson of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, talking about the importance of playgroups in providing children with part-time, informal play and learning activities.

The trend towards, ever-earlier formal education is being combined with the 'wrap-around' daycare which many local authorities now offer working parents as an extension of the child's 'working' day. Is it really in the best interests of the child? Or is it just another device to lure mothers into the workplace? Ifyou can, come and join our meeting. Or write to Margaret Hodge at the Department of Employment, with your views.