Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Back to school blues, the true cost of childcare and learning to get along

I got a call this afternoon from our eldest: he had been locked out by his brother and was stranded at the back of the house. From the office I called home and demanded  a repatriation of the garden dweller. It's back to school and things are a little tetchy.

Navigating the change in temperature from holiday to school is this week's challenge in my first back-to-school without any childcare. Although the kids are really growing up and my husband is front line in the school shuttle service for our youngest, there is still a gap between the supervision necessary and an appropriate adult to provide it. But like so many working parents with teenagers, we shall have to limp on and hope for the best.

From first-hand experience I know childcare is expensive but was still shocked to hear from last week's Daycare Trust and Save the Children report that UK residents pay the highest childcare costs in the world. Restricted access to affordable, quality childcare is the single largest reason that women do not return to work after having children. The loss to the workforce of so many qualified, experienced women  must signifigantly reduce productivity, which has to be a bad thing. I know some men also give up work, but should anyone have to make that choice? Which is not a choice at all if it is done as a matter of necessity.

SEL board member June O'Sullivan, CEO at LEYF, the London Early Years Foundation, was everywhere in the media last week, discussing the report. June is one of the country's experts in early years' provision and the effects of restricted access to childcare and she spoke so well about the need to create affordable childcare and support more families through the early years. Once again, a social enterprise leading the way! June told me that LEYF had also been in the news this week when a visit by the then PM Gordon Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darling (another two boys who struggle to get along) to a LEYF nursery was the footage used to cover the Darling diary book launch. June has since had a visit from David Cameron, I wonder what the children make of it all?

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