(This article was originally published in Nursery World on 28 July)
In the song, ‘Step Right Up’, Tom Waits hymns the virtues of a mystery product. For only a dollar it does just about anything you would ever want, including mowing the lawn, picking up the kids, walking the dog and doubling on sax.
In recent times it has appeared that the mystery product, at least as far as policymakers are concerned, is the holy grail of affordable, quality childcare. It can boost children’s chances of later school success, solve child poverty, hoist low-income families out of worklessness and boost the economy. With all these benefits on offer, no wonder this field of policy has become increasingly crowded. We have had Government publications (the wittily entitled and creatively-evidenced ‘More Great Childcare’ and ‘More Affordable Childcare’). There have also been significant reports in recent times from organisations such as IPPR, Policy Exchange, and now – most recently – the Lib Dem thinktank CentreForum.