“Free universal childcare” is a phrase that is in the news again, this time as part of Jeremy Corbyn’s labour leadership bid. It’s a phrase that makes me very uncomfortable. It sounds great but it’s a headline grabbing phrase that leaves many important questions unanswered, even unasked. There isn’t any detail on early years childcare in his post arguing for a national-education-service. The detail matters. Research shows that under 3s are have raised cortisol levels in nursery and that spending lots of time in nursery in the early years predicts greater aggression later in life. The quality of the nursery provision also matters, with good nursery care doing less damage than poor quality. Unfortunately much of the nursery care in this country is not good quality. So my questions for Jeremy are
- Do you support parents right to choose what kind of childcare they want for their child?
- Will you ensure sufficient funding to allow nurseries to provide excellent childcare?
- How will you support parents, grandparents, friends, families and communities who are already providing free childcare in various ways? Will they be able to continue providing high quality and loving care in your national education service? Will you pay them?
- How do you feel about the decline in nannies/childminders and the increase in nursery care?
- Who cared for your children when they were under 3?
I very much hope that this policy will not lead to parents being made to feel that they should be sending their children to poor quality nursery care at a younger and younger age. Or worse parents being forced to send young children to nursery by a welfare system that considers a parent at home with a child a missed opportunity to collect taxes.