Tag Archives: Funding

When is an entitlement not an entitlement? When it’s 30 Hours Childcare!

A previous election manifesto addition was to promise parents 30 hours of free childcare. This is an annual increase from 570 to 1140 hours, whether 30 hours term time or 22 hours stretched across 51 weeks of the year. If you are one of the many parents struggling to pay for childcare, “free” is an overstatement or I should simply state, it is misleading.

It is worth noting that when a manifesto declares childcare ‘free’, they’re counting on a lot of hardworking citizens in a climate of stagnating living standards and wages to lurch for anything called “free” without much thought about what free really means. Since we now seem to live in an alternative fact, post-truth world, I can unreservedly tell you:

Someone always pays

nothing free

How to tell the difference between free and subsidy

Childcare is a subsidised offer funded by the tax payer and the sector.

Childcare, like schools, cost.  The majority of the costs (approximately 77%) pay for staff and the rest is used to pay the rent, rates, buildings, food, resources, business costs and contingencies. Therefore, someone needs to pay the costs of this.  Up until now the local authorities allocate a proportion of their Government funding to childcare and the sector picks up the rest. So we can be given anything between £3.60 and £6.00 to fund a child’s place which may cost much more per hour especially in London. Just as an example, the National Living Wage is £7.20 and the London living wage is £9.40 so that gives an indication of some of the baseline costs.   The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) calculated that on average the sector lost £900 per place per year.

The second word used was “entitlement”. People generally translate this to mean they can access this because they are entitled.  This is not the case. Parents may be entitled to apply for a funded place for 30 hours childcare but that is only going to happen if the childcare sector provides sufficient places. More recently guidance uses the term eligibility which is broad and covers most parents whether working a weekly minimum equivalent of 16 hours at national minimum or living wage to earning up to £100,000. The issue is availability. According to the recent Pre-School Learning Alliance report, only 44% of providers were considering providing the offer. The DfE itself published a report that said they anticipated a shortfall of 10,000 places.  4 in 10’s report ‘At what cost: The 30 hours ‘free’ childcare promise in London’ has identified that:

  • Just 13% of settings said the funding is sufficient, and over half said remaining financially viable over the next two years would be very challenging.
  • 40% of settings are not sure or definitely not going to take part
  • 33% of settings said they will not offer more 15 hour places for three and four year olds over the next two years

This reality means that many of the parents will be disillusioned about the 30 hours. That is certainly what I found when I have talked to parents about if and how we could offer it at the LEYF nurseries. I made the same point to a group of local authorities at a conference recently, warning them to get the message right to parents to avoid disappointment and discontent.

Is the sector being unreasonable?


That’s a resounding, NO!

A sector in crisis : first came the recruitment fiasco, then came the 30 hours

We are still reeling from the recruitment crisis needlessly manufactured by previous Minister Elizabeth Truss, who insisted that to enter the profession, candidates and apprentices needed A to C GCSE in Maths and English.

Well, I hear you cry, why was that such a problem?

Many who choose to become nursery teachers don’t have the required GCSEs and as a result, the sector experienced a shortage of permanent staff. As is the norm, when there’s a shortage of qualified staff and the demand soars, you know it is going to be costly to solve the workforce problem. The sector had nowhere to turn except to hiring agency and temp staff, the outcome of which was a huge increase in staffing costs, demoralised and exhausted permanent staff and ultimately a big risk to the quality of care.

It took two years and continual lobbying for the new Minster Caroline Dinenage to rightly address our concerns and rescind the GCSE requirements, giving us flexibility to increase the entry requirements but at a pace that was realistic for the sector.

The future for childcare

So, what are the options?

We cannot charge parents for any part of the free entitlement, either directly or indirectly.  So we will have the raise the fees. We can charge for activities we currently provide as part of the offer and we can charge for meals or parents can provide a packed lunch. This leads to many other issues that challenges inclusivity. For example, a Nursery World survey found 43% considered that 30 hours will negatively affect their settings’ food provision. They were worried about the quality of food and managing two lunch arrangements. There is a space issue as packed lunches need to be stored safely. Also, how do you create an inclusive environment where one child gets a meal cooked by the nursery chef and the other child is tucking into cheese and crisp sandwich?!

Finally, while the DfE has clarified that it’s not fifteen hours of education and fifteen hours of childcare, its coming across as that especially if they are insisting on the flexibility of using fifteen hours to wrap around the child. This is a backwards step in the quality debate which demands integrated care and education to meet full developmental needs of a child. The sector needs a serious conversation about 30 hours with parents. We need parents to understand the issue of quality, why 30 hours isn’t just “childcare” but deeply important early education. The research on quality needs to float right to the top of the argument.

In summary, for parents to access the 30 hours we need more funds to ensure we can deliver a sustainable offer.  This week’s Children & Young People Now (CYPN) noted that over half the nurseries across the sector (that’s could be up to 9000) are in financial difficulty and may close. We need childcare to be part of the local infrastructure and if we want quality education for our children, we must factor the following into provision :

  • Affordable housing for nursery teachers
  • Nurseries near transport links for working parents
  • A workforce strategy that supports us in swiftly rebuilding the recruitment and retention staff pipeline
  • Better and stronger relationships with employers so we can collaborate to build a more family friendly society

Childcare is just another way of describing early education.  It’s a serious offer for our small children.  It needs to be good quality.  So, if we want to help parents access it to ensure they can work and have their taxes filtered through the system, let’s cost it right and divert the funding correctly so there are no financial pinch points.  That way, we can provide the 30 hours and more and childcare will be a perfect vehicle to strengthen our infrastructure in a way that drives social and economic benefits at every level.

An Oscar Speech for Early Years Practitioners

Gold TrophyLast week I went to friend’s wedding and when it came to the speeches, she stood up and explained that as it was the day of the 86th Academy Awards she would give her speech in true Oscar acceptance style. I took a deep breath as some of the most excruciating Oscar speeches came into my mind; do you remember Halle Berry or Gwyneth Paltrow or James Cameron?
However, my friend works in Early Years and so would never take herself that seriously – her speech successfully dripped with stories and vignettes to make us all laugh!
I have been telling stories and making people laugh at a number of recent conferences and it certainly seems to elicit a warm and engaged response with people often commenting about why it’s so important we don’t take ourselves too seriously as it’s not about us but all about the children.
This was particularly heartening from practitioners working in a low status sector and coping with a national Press and Public which both misunderstand and misconstrue what it is we do. Look at last week, we were once again in the press, broadcasted as greedy expensive childcare providers.  On BBC Radio London Drive Time, Eddie Nester said to me that someone must be making a lot of money out of childcare. Well, I replied ‘introduce me to him and his credit card.’
We know that the problem is not the cost of childcare but the proportion parents pay. This proportion will increase all the more if more providers stop providing the ‘free offer’ because the shortfall between the hourly cost and the hourly rate  is placing their business in jeopardy. Given that 80% of costs in a childcare business is staff and we are not high earners, how do people think we are accumulating vast fortunes? For more details read the Family Childcare Trust report. teacht-kids-money[1]

I read on Twitter that Ofsted finds one third of settings as ‘not good.’  Let’s analyse what that means and not immediately assume it’s correct or a true reflection of the state of the Early Years. We are still working with Ofsted on getting a shared perspective. Look out for the #OfstedBigConversation and the London meeting on 11th April (details in April blog).
So to those enthusiastic and warm people I meet at conferences (this week I met you in Camden and Hackney) my  Oscar speech says hold your nerve and keep your positive attitude.  Continue to fight for what is right.  We are critical to supporting children to succeed.  We are also providing childcare which is an economic pillar to help families work and stay out of poverty. The research is consistent; good quality childcare makes a significance difference to children especially the most vulnerable. President Obama has just drafted a policy to increase childcare, the Australian Government has ploughed $44m dollars into it while this country continues to be confused about childcare instead of showing the way (a Razzie for them). This quote from an Oscar speech this year from Lupita Nyong’o is a fitting reminder of why Early Years practitioners deserve their own Osacar:

                                       When I look down at the golden statue
                                       May it remind you of every little child that 
                                       Wherever you’re from
                                       Your dreams are valid

Welcome to the Institute of Early Years: A Global Portal Connecting EY Colleagues – Help us shape it to meet your interests

For the past year, a small group of us have been mulling over how to create an international open-source space which connects people involved in all aspects of Early Years in a way so that they could chat, share ideas, make friends, organise visits and link to other organisations and resources.

We wanted it to be open source, low cost and accessible to all. We want anyone working with children across the childcare, social care, health, education, police and preventative sectors to connect. Continue reading

A Thank You Letter to Mr Clegg

Dear Mr Clegg,

Thank you for listening to us about the potential changes to the ratios.  I can honestly say we were genuinely delighted that you understood our perspective and agreed to drop the policy. What I hope you and your politician colleagues understand is that if the sector believed the policy would benefit children, the majority would support it and go out of our way to make it work. In this case however, except for those few happy to take the King’s Shilling (!), we as a group agreed and understood the negative impact it would have. The Early Years sector attracts a great many passionate and positive people who want to make a difference – not in a clichéd and trite way but in a pragmatic and constructive one. A good group of people to have on side, I would urge you to have more dialogue with them.

Continue reading

An inspector calls… and the sector arrives to listen and ponder.

On Friday morning I traipsed up to Camden to hear Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills announce his plans for Early Years at a Press Conference. I was determined to hear it from him directly, given the realities of what is happening on the ground at the moment.

Continue reading

A swan and a lark: why the Government’s new childcare report may be the stone that kills both birds

LEYF nursery children planning session
The Government’s new childcare report was launched last week by Elizabeth Truss MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary for State (education and childcare) and generated quite a flurry of twittering.

However I feel it merits a deeper look, especially as I have had to tolerate articles produced by ill-informed journalists and commentators all weekend pronouncing on this report from a position of ignorance. It’s true the Minister shares laudable ambitions with the sector, not least the view that:

Every parent wants the best for their child. They expect childcare to be safe and of good quality, because high quality childcare promotes children’s development in the early years. The availability of affordable, safe and stimulating care is crucial in supporting families by enabling parents to work. It is equally crucial to the development of babies and young children as the foundation for their future success at school and in life.

(Childcare report, 2013).

However, it is the Minister’s rather clumsy attempt to use same single stone to solve the complex issues of childcare costs and quality that is her undoing. The report is her response to two reviews; the Nutbrown Review which examined the robustness of childcare qualifications and the Childcare Commission which looked at cost of childcare.

By using the same stone, the Minister risks killing both birds (the issues of childcare qualifications and the cost of childcare). The problem is the birds are very different; one a swan and the other a skylark. The swan represents childcare for parents, helping them glide into their return to work and masking all the busy paddling underneath to balance the often competing challenges of the working parent.  The skylark on the other hand is high quality childcare, which helps children soar, find their voice and expand their horizons. Re-read Gerard Manley Hopkins‘ beautiful poem The Caged Skylark which captures the consequences of being caged and trapped.

I have tried to simplify the report by highlighting what I consider the eight key points:

1. We need more qualified staff to improve the status and quality of the workforce.

Indeed we do. We have been saying this for an age, and fully support Professor Nutbrown. However, 84% staff have level 3 diploma so let’s not demotivate them.

2. Many staff lack basic skills, so the entry level will include English and Maths A to C.

I agree.  Again we have been saying this for a long time and I recall being lambasted for suggesting such. I continue to believe we need to introduce basic teaching for staff, so they spell and clearly articulate in a grammatically correct way.  How can children learn a minimum of 5000 words if staff cannot string a sentence together? What are some schools doing I wonder??

3. Introduce Early Years Teachers.

OK, but make sure we don’t abandon the 11,000 EYPs and ensure all graduate staff are able to complete this if they want. Most staff cannot afford post graduate training. Employers cannot fund this either, as about 70% do not expect to make any profit this year according to NDNA Business Survey.

4. Deregulate so we can decrease the number of staff to children, particularly under 3s. This means up to one staff member with 6 toddlers and 1 staff member with 4 babies. There are provisos to applying these ratios, such as needing a qualified staff member. A consultation will be launched to decide what qualifications staff should have and the findings will be implemented in September 2013.

This will lead to big problems, not least in the UK where education is child led and based on quality of engagement and suitable environment. There is a genuine fear that we may see lines of chairs with children strapped in for large portions of the day. In addition there are real risks of accidents and an increase in stress levels for both children and members of staff. Children coming from poor families are at particular risk. We know the right pedagogical approach ensures we can play a huge role in helping them soar like skylarks. I could go on…

5. Reduced ratios will mean we can charge less to parents and free up more places.

We absolutely cannot make the figures work here. Reducing the number of staff will only affect the quality of output and standards (see above point).

6. Ofsted is now the sole barometer of quality.

Risky it offers little more than a snapshot once every 47 months.

7. Set up Childminders’ Agencies like Denmark.

I know little about this except Denmark found its methods were cumbersome and expensive and are changing their model.  Ask Birgitte Nyborg from Borgen!

8. Make it easier for schools to take younger children.

Why? Being in school does not in itself guarantee quality. Is this a move towards universal childcare? Better check on the Nursery Education Grant rates then, as schools may prove quite expensive.

So there is much to debate, and I would urge we all respond to the consultation. In the meantime, I would challenge the Minister to continue investigating how the full £5 – £7 billion is spent on childcare (it seems the figure changes depending where you read it). Page 16 of the childcare report is too vague in my opinion.

In the meantime, perhaps those of you caring for under threes should consider recruiting Michael Rosen‘s Mary Anne…

She would leave the room
And you wouldn’t mind
But then you’d discover
She’d left her eyes behind

 However even Mary Anne could not keep up the pace (no matter her qualifications)…

It was a terrible shame
That it was all so drastic
But that’s what happens
When you are made of elastic!

Michael Rosen, Book of Nonsense

Wearing a red coat to a blue Conference.

I went to the Conservative Conference because I was invited to speak at a couple of Fringe events.  Having done a day and a half at the conference last year, I felt more able to navigate my way around this time; plotting a pathway through the oodles of fringe meetings, networking and general schmoozing. I laughed out loud when I realised I was wearing my red autumn coat and sporting an equally red sore nose.  Amid the greys, blues and muted lilac, I think I may have stood out just a little!

The Fringe meeting I was speaking at was organised by Policy Exchange and centred around four questions. The panel was chaired by Eleanor Mills, the Associate Editor of The Sunday Times. She was very relaxed and, like many successful career women, is a governor at the school of her own young children. The MP representing the Conservatives was Claire Perry who sits in Devizes and had been on the Parent Committee of her local Playgroup when her son was little. Lucy Lee is the new Head of Education at Policy Exchange, also has small children and is governor of a secondary school. Finally, there was Professor Helen Penn from the University of East London… and me!

Q1: Who should pay for childcare?

Well that is the big question, and I continue to argue that no one can answer it until we decide what childcare is for and what we as a society want for our children.  Childcare expanded when Tony Blair made the link between working and getting out of poverty, in which case lack of childcare was seen as a barrier. It has since been tacked on to the social mobility agenda. In the meantime, we have become increasingly aware of the long-term benefits of early education for all children and how it can ease their path to a successful economic and emotional life. We all know about the economic benefits this brings to society as a whole, and those who don’t know should read James Heckman as a starter for ten.

Much was made of the differentials between the UK and the other OECD countries; the fact we seem to spend 1.1% of GDP on childcare, yet parents still make the highest proportion of the cost.  The question was tackled with a raft of statistics from Professor Penn, who said much needs to be challenged about what we put into current figures, how this skews the actual money spent and would explain why we seem to be getting very poor value for taxpayer’s money. She has just finished a report waiting for approval at the DfE which will no doubt be both enlightening and informative.

As you would expect, Scandinavia came up and the fact that children age one to six can access childcare there as a universal right; that parents manage to pay less towards the cost (as little as 10%) and the quality of service given to all children remains high.

Q2 Are we over-regulated?

The issue of deregulation came up, and as ever we found ourselves having to de-mythise the notion that registration was a major factor in our high costs. (It was something I heard at another fringe, Britannia Unchained; a mishmash of clichés and reflection which, despite the efforts of one, provided a solid historical framework to shape a future debate.)

Of course we have regulation, but the challenge is not the actual regulations (which are light compared to the rest of Europe), but the many and varied interpretations that local authorities make around the guidance in their role as keeper of the public purse:what we need is a reduction in the more general red tape that allows us to speed up business decisions.  Making us VAT exempt would also help, alongside sorting out rents and lease arrangements.  I suggested they look at Ontario and how they subsidise childcare salaries – especially in nurseries serving poorer neighbourhoods – and how this seemed to have a good impact on retention, quality and morale. Yes, you spotted it – the debate is rather depressingly focused on all the same old chestnuts! We so need to just get on and get an overall strategy sorted; the cost of regulation is really not the issue.

Finally, as we spoke about the importance of quality, we touched on issues such as the fact that children go to school too early in the UK; how if we kept them in a nursery setting (using an appropriate nursery education model), they might end up like Finnish children, top of the literacy and numeracy tree. What is more, we would no longer have to spend £9billion annually on addressing basic literacy issues. We might also solve some of the issues re the shortage of school places too.

I think now more than ever we need to examine the UNESCO Caring and Learning Together report, as recommended by Peter Moss, and use the structure to reconsider what we are doing in line with a discussion with members of the public about what we need for all children (a message that could be easily translated for other sectors such as elderly care).

So let’s think about an integrated model which is supported by Government, not supplanted by it; a model that weaves together all the factors below so we can achieve a vision like our friends in Scotland, and  make the UK the best place to be a child:

  • Policy
  • Regulation
  • Curriculum
  • Access
  • Funding
  • Type of provision
  • Workforce

Not forgetting how helpful it would be if it were led by an integrated set of Government departments with real power, funds and decison-making responsibility,  not always looking over their shoulders for the veto from the Treasury.

Conference talk: more courage and less cliché for two-year-old childcare please

The Conference season is upon us, and so the launch of ideas for manifestos rain down upon our ears. Clichés and soundbites abound as the Party Leaders try and outdo each other with their cleverness. The Press is having a field day comparing dull and duller (or as I would suggest Dumb and Dumber). The risk to the credibility of any leader is that he will be hoisted by his own petard of stupid announcements, impossible promises and incoherent policy.  This time, it seems the Early Years is first in the firing line.

The Lib Dems started the ball rolling by announcing £100m capital to spend on building more nurseries for two year olds. Do we really need more nurseries, or shall we just start by filling the ones that are empty from other bad policy decisions? Actually, what we really need is revenue to pay for the places. It was therefore somewhat of an irony when two days later the Government, including the Lib Dems, revealed that £158 million is to be taken from the Early Intervention Grant to fund about half the cost of the Two Year Old programme.

Here is another irony, when the last Government was in power, Local Authorities complained that their ability to spend their funds was far too stymied by ring-fencing.  The new Government came in and responded to the complaints by removing the ring fence and told them that they were all localists now.  Now with this new announcement, a hybrid has emerged with localism and ring-fencing all in the same shrinking pot, with local authorities instructed to spend a % of their Early Intervention Grant to pay for the cost of the Two Year olds. Graham Allen, who wrote two reports on the importance of Early Intervention, has written to the Prime Minister about the impact of reallocating the funds. He is arguing that there has already been a 23 percent reduction in the EIG 2010/2012. Top slicing it further (for example the proposed 17 percent cut in 2013/4) to cover the two year olds will make taking Early Intervention to scale – with evidence based programmes in every locality – much harder if not impossible.

I found all this out on my way to Coventry, where I had been asked to talk about two year olds.  I am not sure of the origin of the saying ‘sent to Coventry’, but it certainly felt a little bit of a punishment reading about these announcements on a two hour journey with London Midland. Frankly, I think the Government could do with spending a little time on the train thinking through a coherent plan before doing anything rash.

During my presentation, I avoided the issue of funding. I focused instead on how we get on with making it happen irrespective of Party Politics. When we get bogged down in a spending discussion, we inevitably get stuck and then any creativity and pragmatism gets lost.

The sad thing is that the policy to offer two year old children from poor families free childcare, although laudable, is a missed opportunity.  Instead, it is more just another bit of tinkering. Firstly, it reaffirms the split between childcare and education (a disaster in itself as it means we affirm said segregation).  The former is seen as a private service to parents who want to work and the latter not only a right for all, but in fact a public good (except it is poorly funded and not universal). This policy was a great opportunity to weave the two into one coherent approach, and do what the much lauded Scandinavians already have: a universal entitlement that complements family life. It could have been the perfect opportunity to stop confusing education with schooling.

So even if we get the £100m to spend in areas of need; if it’s well planned and provides appropriate settings for tiny children, it still won’t be enough. The reality is that some two year olds may end up in schools or hastily cobbled together spaces. What we need to do is take control of this by insisting and ensuring that wherever children are placed, the environment reflects an educational philosophy that provides the best pedagogical experience. The sector needs to avoid being swept up in pre-election manifesto canvassing and show some fortitude and tenacity. We need to take a handle on how we give children really good quality education, no matter where they are.  This means understanding the care element and being able to have pedagogical conversations that explain what we do, why we do it and what it looks like. Leaders must understand what two year olds need to develop, enjoy and succeed.

Let’s not forget the key message from the Olympics, and how it inspired children not just to achieve their potential but to surpass their ambitions. The good leaders of this country might do well to remember this when they are planning their Conference speeches. We know times are hard, but they will be a lot harder if they do not show some moral courage right now.

It’s time our politicians remembered the wise council of Confucius – that great leaders have the courage to do what is right. If they could only heed this, perhaps they would do a better job for our beautiful two year-olds.

A LEYF approach to Men in Childcare: not quite as quick as saying Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Not so long ago, David Stevens, Manager of the Angel Nursery, which for a while had 4 male staff out of a team of five, represented us at the Men in Childcare conference in Edinburgh. He had already been to the Men in Childcare Network Ireland International Conference, where he was the only UK representative and had to cope with the high jinks of the Irish and the Danes and the Scots! Enough said. Since then he has become even more interested in why there should be men in childcare and constantly urges me not to take it off the radar.

David and I have long questioned the actual reasons for having men in childcare. We are less than impressed by the standard responses we hear across the sector. The usual reasons trotted out are all about fear and barriers to entry. These include poor pay, lack of promotion opportunities, poor status, fear of accusations of abuse and paedophilia, discomfort working in such a highly female work environment and an expectation that one man can address the shortfall of positive male roles in so many children’s lives. Reading that would you want to come into childcare?

David feels all of this detracts from the main question which is “Do you want to work with children?” When speaking to our male LEYFstaff (of which there are 8% of the workforce) we found that they had all come into childcare because they thought they could be good Early Years Practitioners. For them being a sole man in a nursery was probably the biggest barrier and so we now try and place two men in each nursery, though this is not always possible. Generally, the men working at LEYF were both annoyed and depressed that all the talk of men in childcare became negative and focused on barriers to entry. Many reiterated that they always wanted to work with small children and that what we should be looking for is men who want to work with small children because they are interested in child development and how children learn and they think they have the ability to give them a really fun and exciting experience. The same argument or scenario does not play out in the Primary Schools as men ride up glass elevators to senior management and headteacher positions before you can say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

David has been involved with some very interested organisations drawn together by the Daycare Trust with the support of the DfE. However unlike Europe where Manner in Kitas received 14 million euros for theory based research into the benefit of men in childcare we are doing this on the usual barter and free gratis approach. Europe is also focusing on gender and equality issues which I think would be interesting and avoid us falling into the usual knee-jerk response that until men really take a hold in childcare we will see no improvements in pay or status. How depressing is that for a female led sector? What is needed is for the whole sector to be understood by the public and that policy makers help shape policies which assist the public to understand what we do… yes it’s more than smiling, washing hands and being patient while our male colleagues play really good rough and tumble while acting as surrogate uncle to all the children in female led families!

So here is what we are going to do:

  1. Set up a London Men in Childcare Network beginning by bringing the LEYF male staff together to discuss the issues and formulate a shape.
  2. Find out areas to research including David’s big question which asks us to compare the levels of physical and superhero play in nurseries with and without male colleagues? Then examine the impact that has on boys and girls play. Does it make a difference to their development?
  3. Use Men in Childcare website set up by Kenny Spence to post new information.
  4. Work more with our local Schools and Academies to promote men into childcare both through our apprenticeship programme but also as part of the schools careers options. (I feel a film coming on…)
  5. Seek more engagement from parents in the issue. Get a sense of their views about the promotion of the role of men as carers and educators of children. I read recently that parents use blogs as their main source of information.  LEYF parents, have a look at this!

Men in Childcare is one aspect of a much bigger question which is what is the role of men in our society today? It’s certainly changing at different social, economic and political levels so let’s weave this into a much more comprehensive debate.

Read your two year-old a bedtime story, and start to slowly peel off the label of disadvantage before it sticks

This week has just disappeared, and that is partly because I had meetings every evening.  I was flagging by Thursday and was keen to just go home, put my slippers on and watch The Only Way is Marbs.  Instead I went to the launch dinner of Social Business International, and talked about social finance, loans, debt and banks using their balance to leverage more money. It’s a very pertinent issue for anyone wanting to grow their business. Getting capital is not easy.

On the train home, I spotted an article by BookTrust which again points to the important cognitive benefits children gain if their parents read them a bedtime story. Supporting learning in the home is something I am very keen to help make happen.  At LEYF we are examining every step to this at the moment, so we can have a set of measurable inputs that will give us a set of equally measurable outcomes, and so show that by doing certain activities we will support the home learning bridge, to and from nursery.

Doing this is particularly important if we are to get value for money from the two year old programme. It is our tax after all, so we want it to be well used: every child who has the cosy experience of having a bedtime story, snuggled up with their Mum or Dad, instead of having a DVD stuck on the TV is a success. (When I babysit my nephew, we have to negotiate anything between 5 and 25 books; there is only so much Thomas the Tank Engine and the Fat Controller a girl can take!)

Finally, I was reminded how easily labels are applied, and so much harder to remove. (Just think about the dreadful term NEET.) So the Daily Mail surpassed itself this week when it asked you to check Is your child a psychopath?  The journalist had clearly been freaked out by Tilda Swinton in the film We Need To Talk About Kevin. So take heed and watch how we throw around the terms ‘2 year-olds from disadvantaged families'; we are already sticking a label on children who are little more than babies. No amount of soaking in hot water will remove that label if its stuck on at two.