herald

Saturday 21 October 2017

Is after-school plan a childcare service or just detention?

Did you ever want to stay in school when the other kids went home?

That was called 'detention', wasn't it? You were 'detained' because you were bold. The good kids went home.

It was obvious to everyone back then that getting out of school was a good thing. Not any more.

Now, under plans being proposed by the Government, primary school kids will be able to stay back in school for two hours every afternoon while their parents work.

The positive spin being put on this is that it is a 'low cost' way to solve our childcare issues.

New buildings will not have to be built. The kids can stay in their old school facilities.

This is despite the fact that most of our schools have nowhere to make the kids hot food and nowhere they could eat it in comfort.

playgrounds

Despite that fact that, in some of our schools, kids are asked to eat their sandwiches standing at their desks.

Some have no playgrounds and others forbid the kids to run at all.

My daughter's school has nowhere to play outside except a tiny "assembly area" She was playing there yesterday and was told to stop for fear she'd get hurt.

Should our kids suffer the restrictions of our over-crowded, under-resourced schools any longer than they already do? I think they need their freedom when the school bell rings.

Freedom to roam and climb and play. Freedom to graze and veg and be alone. Freedom from the bullying they may experience at school and which might become unbearable if it stretches any further into the afternoon.

But parents need to work and so the idea of keeping the schools open through the afternoon rears its head again and again.

Remember the Progressive Democrats' proposal to keep the schools open from 7am till 7pm?

They suggested serving the kids "yoghurty drinks" at their desks.

The kids were saved from this fate by the demise of the PDs and the collapse of the economy. But now, as the economy begins to recover, it appears that we're getting straight back to PD brass tacks.

This is despite the fact that one in every five crèche places created under our multi-million euro childcare programmes is empty. And poll after poll shows most parents want home-based care rather than centre-based care for their kids.

Meantime, the British Childcare Commission has found that after-school care is best if it does not take place in the children's school. Under the heading "Some children are not happy in childcare", it reported that there were "issues concerning childcare arrangements using school facilities as it is often seen as an extension of school."

Kids need a break like everyone else, but parents need childcare. And it's often not easy and not affordable to get someone else to pick up children from school.

So I have a solution: send the kids home with friends who have mam or dad or gran at home.

Why can't the State run a child-minding service using schools as bases? Vet parents who register to care for kids other than their own and check out their homes?

parents

Give the parents a bit of First Aid training and maybe some more training down the tracks.

Use the school for activities, by all means, but only if the school has the resources and the kids are up for it.

Otherwise send them home with their friends, where they can curl up with a cushion and hang out of a tree if they feel like it.

Why can't the State pay these registered parents, so that after-school care can be affordable for all and cheap for those who are hard-up?

This would have the added benefit of helping parents to stay home with their own kids if they want to.

Irish politicians always picture institutional buildings when childcare is mentioned - instead of picturing children.

Why not exploit the lovely homes and green spaces which so many Irish people have?

Home is where the heart is...and it is where most children want to be.

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