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June O'Sullivan, LEYF CEO

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Will the arrival of a Royal baby raise the profile of Early Years?

Hurrah, the press finally have something new to focus on now the Duchess is having a Royal Baby.  Poor old Kate, suffering not just morning sickness but –  hyperemesis gravidarum,  a particularly nasty form suffered by just one per cent of pregnant women and more often experienced by women carrying twins.  What a royal pain, and a royal thrill. My heart and joy goes out to the first time mother to be. Imagine though if Kate produces two heirs to the British throne, one male and the other female. With recent changes agreed by the Commonwealth Realms, a woman can finally rule in her own right! The monarchy has stepped further into the 21st century, paving the way for women to be taken even more seriously as leaders.

I am hoping that the expected baby of such a high profile couple may lead to a bigger and better national conversation about children. Earlier today I listened to Elizabeth Truss MP, the Under Secretary for Children and Families, at the Daycare Trust Policy Conference. She told us that investing in Early Years and giving children the best experiences possible was the right thing to do.  I couldn’t agree more (we have been advocating this for years!) She did not say however what she thought the ‘right thing’ is, so the audience was left to fill in the gap. I assure you an audience filled with Early Years professionals is not short of an opinion or six, so that bit was easy – although if left unchecked, can quickly disintegrate into a whinge, gloom and an all too familiar desperate cry for more funding in any form.

The Minister’s other message was the importance of raising the profile of the Early Years as a credible and important job.  She asked for ideas as to how she could help make society sit up and take notice of us. I wonder if the arrival of the royal baby will be a good starting point to finally attract the attention we deserve

The Evening Standard started the debate with the headline ‘Kate will fight to give her baby a loving and normal childhood‘. The journalist must have had a  tête à tête with Wills and Kate because he seemed very assured about the  Cambridges’ absolute determination to raise their child their way – as a young, loving married couple.  Apparently, the young princes were brought up to behave like normal boys and enjoyed fun, frolics and play fights. If they stepped out of line, their late mother, Diana Princess of Wales, allowed adults in their social sphere to chastise them, including a rather large nanny having to pin Harry to the wall with her stomach until he calmed down. Yep! As confirmed in the same Evening Standard article (post Leveson!)

It is clear to this writer that the first message to the nation about a Royal childhood is that family matters. Parents need to retain their authority but can when necessary delegate to relevant adults, in order to ensure children have the security of consistent discipline and established boundaries.  Playing is important, as is sports and the outdoors, for every child’s sustainable personal development. Most of all, children need a stable and loving home environment and where possible, strong family ties.  I should think none of us would argue with this age old logic. Elizabeth Truss must now ensure that, like the Royal baby, all new babies should be welcomed into a society which places the same expectations on all parents and which supports this intention with policies that help make it happen.

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