Laura Perrins is a former barrister and part-time Teaching Fellow in criminal law at University College London. You can follow her on Twitter @LPerrins.
Labour are campaigning on the basis that Father Christmas exists. They also think that when it rains it is because the baby Jesus cries. Well, perhaps I am exaggerating, but so far they have said they are going to revoke the spare room subsidy, look at raising the minimum wage across different sectors, and place a legal obligation on all primary schools to ‘care’ for children from 8am – 6pm. The first two ideas have already been criticised by many people, I wish to unpick the final one.
Labour do not believe that primary schools are for educating children. They want them to become holding pens for children instead. There is no extra money for this hair-brained scheme. Let me say that again: there is no extra money for this. However Labour still believe it is responsible governing to place this legal obligation upon schools which means that parents are now legally entitled to ask the State to care for their children for ten hours of the day. Remember children sleep for a further twelve hours. I leave it to the seven year olds to calculate how many waking hours they will potentially spend with Mum, Dad and siblings.
What are schools to do? I would be very surprised if teachers were on board with this – they have families themselves and cannot be expected to provide babysitting services free. Schools could be forced to divert funding from other places – who knows, Labour certainly don’t. But essentially the care children will receive will be the bare minimum; I expect a pair of eyes so that the children themselves do not tear each other’s eyes out. Promising something, but saying there is no money for it and dumping it in the laps of schools and/or local government and/or parents is the very worst kind of governing. It is just pathetic.
Yvette Cooper said this provision is needed in the interests of ‘women, equality and the economy.’ The interests of children are not mentioned. Their needs are irrelevant. They are non-entities. But they are not non-entities to their parents who should be very, very cautious when considering this. Some parents do need care for their children before and after school – not just a place for their children to be contained but actual care. Childminders did provide a good level of care, but they have been so heavily regulated now it is become very expensive for parents to use them. Often stay at home Mums would care for a child after school to bring in some extra money but as these Mums have come under relentless pressure to work outside the home this service will become rarer also. Labour answer: the State provides.
I do wonder if politicians have any idea what it must be like for a young child - remember we are talking about children as young as 4 here - to be told that after a long day at school (and it is long for a 4, 5 or 6 year old) that, in fact, you cannot go home and see your Mum. You cannot just chill out on the couch and watch Peppa, or throw a tantrum because you have been holding it together all day. You have to stay here – in school - for three more hours. Asking a child to be in school from 8 am – 6pm is longer than some adult working days. Now, perhaps politicians, being the workaholics they are, just do not understand that. But they need to take a little more time thinking about the needs of young children, and a little less time pushing their wretched ‘equality’ agenda when drawing up policy on their white boards. Parents beware.