Ten hours in childcare? Actually it is not new but the circumstances are   1 comment

This is my first blog in what (time permitting) will be a series  of blogs about the ideas being put forward in the Governments proposals and consultation on the roll out of the 30 hours.

I apologise for the lack of the usual links in this blog (time is in short supply) but the information is easy to find

Government are inviting comments in their consultation  about the idea that parents could use the 30 hours more flexibly, and from 6am up to 8pm, and that each child could use the 30 hours in up to 10 hour slots.

I have read a number of articles and blogs where people have expressed their concern about such long hours in childcare and so few hours available for family time. People have expressed concerns about the impact on children’s emotional development and well being – and quite rightly as there is a lot of research around this – including research that long hours in childcare do not improve educational outcomes for children.

 

It is at this point that I want people to stop and think a little.

The Government have made it clear that the additional 15 hours are childcare based, not education based – and yes I know you can not draw a line between childcare and education as children are learning all the time, however you can draw a line between the different types of funding  provided and therefore the expectations about what a child does in those hours.

So this is what we need to focus on when responding to the consultations – we need to make sure that the children will not be provided with 10 hours of constant adult led activities with a planned educational aim. We need to ensure children will have time to relax, to stand and stare, to daydream, to  flop on a sofa, to watch TV / DVD, to dip in and out of free  play choices, to be outside, to nap, to eat, to spend time with older or younger siblings, to go on outings – even things like  going  to the shops,  and all those other things that make up childhood.

Within childminding, 10 hour days, even 12 hour days are not that unusual and it is historically where Registered Childminders have been able to meet the needs of parents who have a long commute, who work shift patterns, who do not have family  who can help nearby.

The big difference between group childcare and home based childcare is that is is usually (but not always these days) based in a family home and all the things mentioned above are usually provided and so children are not expected to just have more hours of the same type of activities and experiences.

I am not suggesting that group care does not (or could not) provide these things – of course they can – and some already do – but it needs more thinking about and more planning – and not just the environment but also the availability of key workers.

It is in my opinion the most important factor to consider – not just our personal views about if children should be in childcare for up to 10 hours but what happens in those 10 hours within the childcare setting. Parents and indeed providers often can not have the ideal world and so have to make the best of the situation – and do the best they can for the children.

There are so many things to consider – how many ‘long days’ does the child do? Is it a parent who collects the child or a babysitter / older sibling / other family member? Can we involve parents more / ensure information shared more? Could we change our practice to ensure each child has a positive experience? What can we do in the very early and late hours of each day to ensure it is more like family time and less like group time?

We should not judge the often difficult decisions that parents have to make, we should not just complain about Government plans (and yes I acknowledge I do a lot of that!), we should not just throw our hands in the air or stick our necks in the sand because we do know that whatever we say or do the chances of changing Government policy is small. We should be proactive in thinking what we can do in the best interests of the children and families.

One of the things we may be able to do is to work in partnership more, especially if we do not personally have the staff or availability of premises (community groups / groups with caretaker issues) to provide all of the 30 hours. And to be clear, I don’t just mean childminders doing the early or late hours – that might not be in the child’s best interest. It maybe that days are shared, it defiantly will mean more personal sharing of information between settings on a daily basis to ensure the child  experiences a balanced day with things neither repeated (two sports days on the same day in different settings; or two full cooked meals or four snack times in a day due to different times provided in different settings; or three hours TV just because accessed at different times in different settings) or not included at all (for example no ‘down time’ to daydream).

It will all take a lot more working together – really working together.

I think back to the children I have cared for over my childminding career – and many of them – in fact most of them, did 10 hours a day with me, some even did 5 x 10 days in a typical week.

Do I think it caused any long term harm – No – in fact if I thought it had, I would not have continued doing so over such a long period of time. I am lucky in that I am still in touch with some of those who I have cared for over the years and some of these are now  in their 20’s or 30’s, so I have the benefit of actually knowing that the long hours in childcare have not impacted negatively on them.

So I urge you all to fill in the consultation, I urge you all to express very clearly your concerns about how your setting could deliver this and the impact on the children. I urge you all to explain the financial impact on your setting – for example being open longer hours but only for a few children. I urge you all to explain the impact on your own and staff’s family time – and indeed the impact on well being of staff, yourself and your own  families.

And yes – do mention the lack of sufficient funding – the Lemonade funding for Champaign Nurseries

But at the same time time I urge you all to think outside the box a little bit and if there is anything you can do to support the children and families using your setting,  who might want the 30 hours more flexibily – and to start having those discussions with other settings in your local area about how you could work in partnership more.

 

 

One response to “Ten hours in childcare? Actually it is not new but the circumstances are

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  1. Great points Penny. Not possible to do 30 hours in one of my settings, so planning to network with childminders. More working together I think.

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