Drive to get parents to work could set back children’s development – peers

The Telegraph is reporting that a House of Lords committee has warned that a government drive to get more parents out to work by offering subsidised childcare could be harming children’s development…

A committee of peers said there was an “inherent tension” between the aims of helping mothers in particular pursue a career and improving their children’s development but that ministers did not appear to recognise the problem.

They also warned that, despite a rise of almost a quarter in planned spending on childcare and early education, the current system could be based on a “false economy” which fails to improve children’s chances in life.

And they called for more effort to support parents teaching young children at home rather than relying on nurseries…

The committee added: “Many of our witnesses acknowledged the trade-offs inherent in a policy which seeks on the one hand to promote child development, and on the other hand to facilitate parental employment.

“For example, cheap, low-quality childcare might help parents to work, but it would not meet the Government’s child development objectives…

The committee singled out a submission from the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) which warned: “Cheap, low quality childcare might be a solution to parental employment, but would undermine aims to promote children’s development.”

Written evidence from Barnardo’s added that there is a danger that the quality of care could be “compromised” in order to be more “flexible” for parents…


What do you make of the suggestion that helping more parents – especially mothers of young children – into employment could be detrimental to their children’s development? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Parenting, Policy and Pre-school.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Are they saying that policies and their consequences haven’t been properly considered? Again?! Happens with every edu policy

  2. Janet2

    Good quality childcare is necessary if parents need to work.  However, it would be better if employment was flexible enough so parents didn’t need to hand over their children from 8am-6pm.   Trouble with Gov’t entreaties from schools to offer care from 8am-6pm is that employers will tell parents if they want a job then they should find a school that offers such a facility and not expect flexible hours.

  3. Well said the House of Lords.  One parent (mum or dad) at home with very young children is invaluable for their development and the economy needs to be geared to ensuring that can happen for every family.

    Some parents (call them ‘Group A’) talk to their children
    from birth, play with them, cuddle them, sing to them, and early on begin to
    share picture books with them, read stories and repeat nursery rhymes.According to their economic circumstances the
    parents, usually the mothers, spend a lot of time in a one-to-one relationship
    with their child and share the child’s exploration of the home and garden
    environment, constantly talking about it.This is how children learn to communicate and to use their eyes, ears
    and hands to make sense of their world.Over the early years these parents provide toys that enable the child to
    solve simple problems (like putting different shapes into appropriate holes),
    toys that stimulate creative play (like bricks, dolls, toy cars) and materials
    for expression (like paint, crayon, playdough).They sing to their children, play music to them, and – as the children
    grow older – introduce them to nursery rhymes – and much else.These are the children who stand a good
    chance, by age eleven, of achieving the high standards that their parents (and
    government ministers) want for them.

    But other parents (Call them ‘Group B’), often struggling
    with a low income and sometimes other domestic problems, may be able to give
    but little time to developing a one-to-one relationship with their child and
    find it easier to put the child in front of a television set with a dummy in
    the mouth as a comforter, hoping that a few cuddles will be sufficient to tell
    the child that he or she is loved.It is
    both an economic and a cultural problem that results in these children
    struggling with reading, writing and maths as they move through school.The economic aspect cannot be tackled by the
    education system, but the cultural aspect could be by universal access to Sure
    Start centres across the country.

    It is not only children who learn from each other: parents,
    especially mothers, do.If the other
    mothers that one meets are of the watch-TV-with-a-mouth-stopper ilk then
    conformity is likely.Where there is a
    friendly Sure Start centre with perceptive staff who carefully encourage the
    idea of regular-interaction-with-your-child-whenever-you-find-the-time the
    culture of the attending parents will slowly change.

    It is excellent if parents and child-minders of both Group A
    and Group B meet together at Sure Start centres because it assists the staff in
    promoting the child-centred values which enhance development of each child.

    In my view the way to eliminate the ‘tail’ of
    underperforming children in school is to tackle the issue before compulsory
    schooling and from birth by major investment in Sure Start centres across the
    country.I believe this could be most
    effective if it became a shared responsibility of primary schools, Sure Start
    centre staff, and the trained nurses of the Health Visitor service. (But the existing pressures on primary schools – “the shackles” – need to be removed first!)
    That is the argument for a ‘joining up’ of health visitors,
    Sure Start centres, and early years teachers of local primary schools.Health visitors are important for the health
    of the child and Sure Start centres give invaluable support to many homes, but
    it is early years teachers who could play a major part in changing what I have
    called Group B homes into Group A and so help eliminate the ‘tail’.They need to work together.

  4. I am a firm believer in the best place for babies and young children being at home with their mother (a Group A mother see below); the Government needs to recognise this and make policies to enable all families to give their children this start in life. Only then will they see the rewards that they are failing to achieve with ever increasing child care facilities

  5. Busy Mum

    As I said the other day, a society that only measures its childcare in monetary terms does not deserve to have children at all; a stay-at-home mum knows that her child’s development is priceless.

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