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  • A critical look at BC’s new tax breaks and subsidies for LNG May 7, 2019
    The BC government has offered much more to the LNG industry than the previous government. Read the report by senior economist Marc Lee.  
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • The 2019 living wage for Metro Vancouver April 30, 2019
    The 2019 living wage for Metro Vancouver is $19.50/hour. This is the amount needed for a family of four with each of two parents working full-time at this hourly rate to pay for necessities, support the healthy development of their children, escape severe financial stress and participate in the social, civic and cultural lives of […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Time to regulate gas prices in BC and stop industry gouging April 29, 2019
    Drivers in Metro Vancouver are reeling from record high gas prices, and many commentators are blaming taxes. But it’s not taxes causing pain at the pump — it’s industry gouging. Our latest research shows that gas prices have gone up by 55 cents per litre since 2016 — and the vast majority of that increase […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • CCPA welcomes Randy Robinson as new Ontario Director March 27, 2019
    The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is pleased to announce the appointment of Randy Robinson as the new Director of our Ontario Office.  Randy’s areas of expertise include public sector finance, the gendered rise of precarious work, neoliberalism, and labour rights. He has extensive experience in communications and research, and has been engaged in Ontario’s […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • 2019 Federal Budget Analysis February 27, 2019
    Watch this space for response and analysis of the federal budget from CCPA staff and our Alternative Federal Budget partners. More information will be added as it is available. Commentary and Analysis  Aim high, spend low: Federal budget 2019 by David MacDonald (CCPA) Budget 2019 fiddles while climate crisis looms by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood (CCPA) Budget hints at priorities for upcoming […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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Early learning lessons from the UK

A report from the front lines of the battle over early learning and child care in the United Kingdom, which appears to be in a similar space as Canada – supported by academic and policy elites, but with too little action on the political side to overcome the great inertia of the existing patchwork system.

Taking great care

We should not allow alarmist headlines about nurseries to panic us into dropping an ambitious and much-needed strategy to tackle child poverty.

Alison Garnham

The report on the neighbourhood nurseries initiative has provoked a surprising degree of hysteria, with some elements of the press painting a picture of a generation of feral, foot-stamping toddlers emerging from the nation’s childcare settings. But what the report actually shows is that the government programme has been a great success. Around half of the parents who sent their children to neighbourhood nurseries had never used formal childcare before, and among them were parents from some of the most disadvantaged groups in society.This is great news for the government’s national childcare strategy, because, to date, these are the groups which have shown much slower take-up of childcare, and who live in areas where childcare is at its scarcest.

The report also found that the quality of care in neighbourhood nurseries was pretty good, and this is an area the government is working on. The finding that long hours of group care affects children’s behaviour is not new and echoes earlier findings. The effect (on a small minority) is described only as “significant but modest”. A far cry from “Nurseries are turning our children into yobs,” as one tabloid newspaper shrieked from its front page on Wednesday.

Towards the end of the ten-year national childcare strategy, we would expect to see a picture of much-improved childcare in the UK. At the moment, research will still be picking up on the fact that we’ve started from a very low base, with almost no publicly-funded childcare and one of the worst records in Europe.

But, we need to be ambitious and follow the Nordic countries, where nurseries provide the best mixture of care and learning. Where childcare environments are led by properly-qualified teachers, the outcomes for children are excellent, especially for disadvantaged children. And this is the age to start, if we want to drive up educational achievement and prevent future poverty.

We can’t hope to end child poverty unless we have a national childcare infrastructure to match the best in Europe. Parents will not have the confidence to move into employment unless they are sure of the quality of their children’s care.

The absence of childcare in this country has for too long been a brake on the ambitions of women, especially lone mothers, who have therefore been locked out of the labour market. No one is suggesting wall-to-wall, dawn-till-dusk childcare – strengthening work-life balance will be of the essence, so mothers and fathers can spend more time with their children – particularly in the early years. The government has made a good start, but there is still more to do to establish a combination of leave and pay that offers parents real choices.

It is hard to understand the desire in some quarters to lambast the national childcare strategy and write off this ambitious ten-year plan only two years down the line. Who would want to torpedo it at this stage? I can only think it’s those who want parents to return to the home in droves. But the genie is already out of the bottle. Most women want and need to work, and mortgages need to be paid! And some of us have our sights set even higher on achieving an entitlement to the highest quality childcare for all our children and – as members of the End Child Poverty campaign – ending child poverty.

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