Despite the posed pictures of her pushing a baby in a pram (I wonder if its hers?), Liz Truss, the minister for education and childcare, has made it abundantly clear that she knows bog all about small children.
Her starter for one was the proposal that ratios of minders and daycare to children should be increased. As Polly Toynbee amusingly pointed out, minders are supposed to take their charges out of the home once a day. Polly laid down a challenge to Truss: let’s see you take two babies and four under-threes out to the park.
Not satisfied with having put daycare nursery profits ahead of the needs of children, Truss then weighed in with a demand for our nurseries to be highly structured in their daily schedules. This would increase the educational value of the places (as is supposed to be the case in France, a country which has a negligent attitude to the needs of under-threes – mothers getting their figures back is put ahead of meeting the needs of neonates). Clearly, Truss has no idea that, for under-threes, play is the only really worthwhile activitiy. The words ‘structured’ and ‘play’ are as absurd when conjoined as the words ‘be spontaneous’. If an activity is structured externally, for a two year old, it ceases to be play.
Truss is a symptom of a much wider malaise. Very few, if any, of our present Ruling Elite have ever spent extended periods caring for under-threes. Speaking anecdotally, I would guess that very few of their partners have done so either – a high proportion of MPs or CEOs have partners who are also workaholic killer-drillers. They leave it to others to do the ‘boring’, ‘repetitive’ task of caring for small children. I have several times proposed that no MP should be admitted who has not spent at least one year looking after and under-three year old for at least one year. That would sort the negligent goats from the compassionate sheep.
What is more, as was so graphically illustrated by the recent documentary featuring Boris Johnson, a great many of the Ruling Elite were severely deprived of responsive, loving care in their early years. Small wonder then, that they have so little understanding of under-threes’ needs. In fact, they are allergic to meeting those needs. I would go further: they think ‘nobody loved me, why should under-threes get the care I was deprived of?’ Put bluntly, deep down, it gives the Ruling Elite pleasure to see under-threes being deprived of love and responsive care.
By Oliver James, author of Love Bombing – Reset your child’s emotional thermostat