Childcare row prediction
It’s 10am on Monday morning, and I thought I should just take a couple of minutes away from spreadsheeting to predict the kind of outraged fury that will spread across the rightwing blogosphere and media today, as the story about two police officers being told they can’t share childcare gather momentum. It’s already on the BBC website news headlines.
My predictions are for headlines/commentary including ‘nanny state gone mad’, ‘Labour invasion of homes’ blah blah blah. You know the kind of thing.
The key message will be that this is the fault of the Labour government and its ridiculous lawmaking, with the fact that no-one picked up the possible ramification of the wording of the Childcare Act, as it passed through parliament, quietly ignored.
There will be little or no mention of the fact that the Children’s Minister has got straight on the case and ordered a review of the particular case.
The rightwing press /blogosphere will not let any inconvenient facts get in the way, that’s for sure, but it’s worth setting out briefly what is REALLY going on here.
Essentially, Ofsted officers, in an agency (the childcare part of Ofsted) that was set up primarily to issue strict guidelines and ensure that they are enforced, have pushed their desire to see guidelines adhered to strictly just a bit too far, and are interpreting the Act in the way it was never intended to be interpreted.
That’s the whole culture of the childcare part of Ofsted, and lack of flexibility/strict interpretation is actually what it’s there for, whether we like it or not.
I run an after school club as part of a wider childcare business, and we often have less than eight children in because of the small school roll and other activities going on. The childcare ratio is set at 1 to 8, but I still have to employ two staff because the rules say that’s the minimum, even though there are teaching staff about 10 yards away.
Yes, that grates sometimes because I have to cross subsidise this essential extended schools services from the surplus on the nursery provision (though I’m also happy to employ an extra person). But I accept it, because I know Ofsted simply can’t just say to me ‘oh well, that’s a bit different so we’ll let you off with one staff member.’
If you’re going to have regulation like this, it’s got to be tight and it’s got to be tightly enforced.
The alternative – which I’d be more than open to personally - is to more or less do away with such regulation, and you know what the rightwing blogs would say the first time there was a serious incident….’Labour’s let down our children’,'the government’s got to act’ and so forth.
Of course this interpretation by Ofsted in one case is over the top, though by making it they force it to the top of the agenda and make sure the interpretation of the Act is clarified, exactly as is now being done under the review ordered.
In a nutshell, the system’s necessarily strict, but it’s working in the way everyone said it should, right down to the necessary clarification of the single word ‘reward’.
But such a stance won’t sell the Daily Mail, or keep Dale’s trolls happy. You look and see.