At the start of the new school year the Mayor for Greater Manchester wrote an article in a newspaper with the headline
‘It is harder than ever to be a young parent today’
He said how a third of young children starting school reception classes this term would not be ‘school ready’ and how this may result in them falling behind their classmates from day one; and some may never ‘catch up’.
He identified how many young families don’t have the basic income to feed their children properly let alone buy books, take them out to places of interest, museums etc to widen their experiences. Young families may live in poor rented housing and are unable to move out because of insecure income and low wages. Parents doing two or three jobs may be time poor, and are not able to invest as much time as they would wish in the home and with their children.
He acknowledged that parents share responsibility for getting children ready for school but that society also has a role to play. We can all recognize this scenario. The Mayor wants to tackle this by adopting a none judgmental approach to families, by addressing poor housing and insecure employment, it will help reduce the stress in the families and benefit young children’s wellbeing.
But is this sufficient? What about the under threes? It is harder than ever to be an Under Three in the UK today. Successive governments have had a policy to encourage mothers to return to paid employment when their children are very young, often going against their maternal instincts. Young children can be left for long hours in child care ser-vices that are now finding it very difficult to maintain a high quality of care because of lack of funding. And now we have the 30 hours of “free childcare” for which some two year olds will be eligible.
All of this when we know that what a child under three needs is consistent loving care from their mother & father in an environment where they feel secure and safe. This bonding is vital for their future physical, mental and emotional development; it provides the foundation for school readiness in the forthcoming years.
It will be interesting to see the impact on ‘school readiness’ in Greater Manchester in years to come but I doubt that it will impact of the wellbeing of children under three. What is needed is a drastic re-think by all political parties and for them to recognise and value the role and status of motherhood which has been eroded over the years. Giving additional financial support to parents with children under three would allow a real choice in who ca-res for their children in their early years. Using the money allocated for 30 hours free child-care to fund financial assistance to parents with young children would be a step in the right direction.
Then there may be less concern about a child’s readiness for school.