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Archive for the ‘every child matters’ Category

I could write about SureStart and get all political, discuss the problems I have with Every Child Matters and the DCSF, and Ofsted (the body that inspects SureStart). I could write at length of how it really doesn’t resonate with the values I have for my own child, and how I even find some things they say more than a little sinister.

But instead, I’ll say just two things. Firstly, this is how SureStart describes what it is all about:

It is the cornerstone of the Government’s drive to tackle child poverty and social exclusion working with parents-to-be, parents, carers and children to promote the physical, intellectual and social development of babies and young children so that they can flourish at home and when they get to school.

I could go through that with a fine tooth-comb and pick out the things that makes me wary of it. But instead, I’ll say just one thing: where’s the “happy”? Because it takes a good dose of happy to “flourish”, whether at home or “when” (and shouldn’t that be “if”?) a child goes to school.

However, despite this, I did take my child to my local SureStart children’s centre on a few occasions. In fact, I even volunteered for them for a short while (and that is another story). But this is why I finally stopped going:

SureStart runs lots of “themed” play sessions. Unlike traditional “Parent and Toddler” groups, which tend to function more on a “benign neglect” basis, SureStart play sessions tend to be a lot more hands-on, and every available moment is spent with the parent interacting with their child, one on one.

(In fact, it’s the reason our local SureStart doesn’t have adult chairs; it forces parents to sit on the floor. Chairs are available for parents with disabilities, but they have to be requested. A breastfeeding “comfy” chair, costing £500, was purchased by our local SureStart, but it’s only of use for those with young, small babies, as the arms are so high that it’s uncomfortable for feeding an older baby or a toddler. But still, it ticks a box.)

One of the sessions they run is called Musical Mayhem. Now, I like mayhem. I like music, too. So I took my toddler, then about eighteen months of age. We started off sat cross-legged on the floor, and the Play Leader got a box full of percussion instruments out. Each child was to walk to the centre of the circle and pick an instrument. B picked a small drum. Then the Play Leader put on a CD of children’s nursery rhymes and themes from well-known kids’ TV shows, and all the children that were able, played along; those that weren’t, their parent did.

So far, so good; not very “mayhem” to my mind, but everyone was enjoying themselves.

And then, the session ended, after about fifteen minutes. The children were to return their instruments to the centre of the room for the next session to start, which was to be dancing to the same CD, singing along. However, my child, and another little boy who looked slightly older, did not want to return their instruments.

They were enjoying playing them and making noise. It was a lot of fun, and they were happy. I realise SureStart doesn’t do “happy” in its mission statement, but it was enough for me.

They went off together into the corner of the room. At eighteen months of age, I’d not have expected interaction like this; it’s the age of “parallel play” after all. But here he was, actually interacting with another child. They swapped instruments. Yes, at just eighteen months of age, my child was learning, by himself, to share, to an extent. SureStart might not care about “happy”, but they do talk about “social development”, or so I thought.

They played with each with the other’s instrument, and then their own again, raising a rumpus and dancing around. “Physical development”, much?

And of course, they learned about the different instruments; the shape of them; they learned that a drum makes a “bang” sound, that it is made from a kind of stretched skin; but that a triangle makes a “chime” sound and is made from metal. “Intellectual development”, at all?

But the Play Leader didn’t see that. She saw two naughty little boys who weren’t obeying the rules. At first, she was like the long-suffering school teacher; “come on boys,” with a smile, hand held out; “it’s time to sing and dance now!”

But when they didn’t listen, she looked at me, and the other little boy’s mother, and made it clear with a glare we had to take the instruments off them.

I thought of how much more they could have learned if they’d been allowed to play along while the others sang and danced. They might even have played for the others, to assist them with their singing and dancing. Think how the “intellectual, physical and social development” boxes could have been ticked and those particular Key Performance Indicators met, for SureStart! But for me, even more than that, think how happy my child, and his new friend, might have been!

But instead, I had to soothe my crying toddler while taking the musical instrument from him. He was upset for the rest of the session, and didn’t join n the singing and dancing. His “physical, social and intellectual” development was nowhere to be seen for the rest of the session. Eventually I walked out with him because he clearly wasn’t enjoying it. I’ve not been back since, either.

See, here’s the deal. SureStart’s aims? Problematic, to say the least. But more than that; without happiness, none of it will ever happen. Certainly not for every child. And I thought Every Child Matters?

 

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