Not for the first time I pulled away from our one’s childminder’s, relieved she doesn’t require a degree to do what she does so brilliantly. Not for the first time I handed her cash, struggling to square the sums with the sum total of responsibilities, energy and capabilities involved in her job. Not for the first time do I join the chorus of my peers demanding more imaginative, equitable and accessible childcare support policies that account for the diversity of family support needs and the right to corresponding choices.
Not for the last time will I wince when I hear care of those two and under couched in the narrative of ‘early years education’. Not for the last time will I feel slightly nauseous at the rise of the persistent framing of this stage of life within the notion of a formalised educational framework. Not for the last time will I head-scratchingly despair at the subtle expansion of the uniformity of this language to legitimise this pathway as the only available route to validating the skills of childcare workers; or the panacea for inadequate recompense from the state for their contribution to the economy and future lives of our youngest citizens.
Not for the sake of politeness do I show a keen interest in the continuing professional training our childminder is required to undertake to keep pace with good practice and the evolution of standardised care of children. Or the on-going regulations she is subject to. These are critical. Not for the want of devaluing her brilliance do I know it unlikely that she would have been able to access third level education were it a requirement when starting out. Or in the future. Not for the want of deliberately failing to recognise the value of education do I hope this gallop towards third level childcare courses slows down. And catches itself on.
Not for the want of being unsupportive of others choices do I bristle when I hear soundbite after soundbite about the ‘need’ for childcare to be treated exactly like education. Not with any grand teaching insights am I unwavering in my belief that there is surely a cocktail of ways of regulating and elevating early years care in the hierarchy of valuable work without it being subsumed into mainstream education. Our six-month old didn’t need a curriculum, if she enjoyed one by a less formal name. Same when she was a year. And eighteen months. She’ll be in it long enough. Some would say unfortunately. Including me.
Not for the belief that I think I’m right do I feel calls for investment into services only is a slippery slope towards shutting down the variety of childcare options that the diversity of families rely on. Not through any certainty that their voices are less valid do I wish for the validity and legitimacy of all choices to be taken on board and safeguarded.
Not, if we were never to see her again after our one moves on, will we be anything but grateful for the love, care, capability, enthusiasm, intuition, warmth, and empathy our childminder had for her while in her care. Our choice was based mostly on chemistry, backed up by recommendation. Letters after her name would never confer any of these talents on her, and certainly won’t guarantee better terms and conditions, as workers in various other caring and community sectors who require them can attest. And as the latter unfortunately know all too well – there is no utopia in sight where jobs are guaranteed on the basis of the assumed worthiness of the work, and the best learning and skills don’t come from a lecture theatre only. Those who enter it exclusively for purposes of compensation from changing family circumstances, or the need to diversify to fit with family circumstances, are in for this rude awakening.