Quotation: More than 200,000 children under 3 go to nursery, many full-time, and some 15,000 babies under a year old. Economics – especially house prices and the fact that women who take employment gaps lose ground heavily when they return – make it necessary. Yet one research project after another confirms that parents are not happy. Being human beings, not statisticians, they believe the evidence that early full-time group care stunts emotional development. Nor does it make mothers happy, to hand over most of their pay so that strangers will lay their babies down in cots that stand in rows.
The Chancellor could have tackled emotional, as well as physical, poverty in ways far less dirigiste, less centrally controlled but more natural. He could have supported couples’ own choices by restoring transferable tax allowances; or smiled financially on personal solutions such as care by relatives or local childminding. Government could acknowledge, with humane good humour, that very early learning and socialising are not best served by ticking off 144 goals per baby, but flourish in the mildly chaotic cosiness that all but the grimmest, dimmest homes produce. It could have concentrated on spotting and helping the minority of real problem families, like the dim malevolent women sentenced last week for treating toddlers as fighting cocks. There aren’t many. Most families are to be trusted, if government would only believe it.Full text here.