Your article (Labour plans expansion of state nursery sector in England to ease pressure on parents, 5 November) suggests some welcome fresh thinking about England’s deeply flawed early childhood system.
But rather than an “extensive childcare offer”, the lesson to take from Estonia and other countries that have successfully transformed their systems is that the Labour party should be working on a universal early childhood education offer; England’s obsession with childcare is misconceived and a dead end.
Successful transformation requires other changes: a well-educated, well-paid workforce, ending our exploitative dependence on cheap childcare workers; a “birth to six years” early childhood sector, not starting children at school at the ridiculously early age of four; and 12 to 15 months of well-paid parental leave, replacing our poorly paid and too-long maternity leave, followed by an entitlement to early childhood education.
The article says Labour is looking to expand “state nursery schools”. England certainly needs to move away from its current reliance on privatised nurseries. Nursery schools are one option. The other is public children’s centres, providing a universal early childhood education, plus a range of other services for children and families.
These, together with “extended schools”, another initiative of the last Labour government, could give England comprehensive and holistic services to be proud of.
Emeritus professor, UCL Institute of Education
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