London has a new Mayor – or a recycled one, depending on your point of view. Boris cycled back into office with a much reduced majority, so he needs to seriously consider the voice of Londoners if he is to maintain a sense of engagement and keep us on side. The downfall of Mark Antony was that he stopped listening to the voices of the Romans and got a bit carried away with Cleopatra; let’s hope Boris continues to listen to the voices of Londoners, especially those of all women – and even more so those with children. I hope the plan for a ‘Bright Start for every child’ will take his interest and we see him standing more publicly on matters that affect small children.
London Councils has also published a plan, Governing London Towards 2016 setting out how the Mayor and local councils can be a strong united voice, speaking up for London to secure fair funding for the capital and champion the city’s needs. London Councils’ plan highlights where the Mayor can work more closely with councils on issues such as crime, education, housing, health and the environment. For example:
- Support London Councils’ campaign to increase school places in many parts of the capital where demand is growing;
- Work with councils on effective interventions to reduce reoffending;
- Support the campaign to remove unnecessary limits on council borrowing to build more affordable homes for Londoners.
Here is a thought then Boris: maybe you could leave four year olds in nursery until they are five, giving you a little much-needed breathing room while you and the London Councils plan how to manage the increasing shortage of school places.
Another Roman who came into my head this week was Caesar, as I wondered if David Cameron was fiddling while the Eurozone burned and we tipped back into recession. I know LEYF is a small business in the grand economic scheme of things but the state of the economy does affect us. Our customers are predominately mothers, and when one in five women are losing their jobs in London, this naturally has a big impact on us; less nurseries means less income, which in turn means we have less potential for social impact .
On a more positive note, we continue to look forward to the Olympics across our 23 LEYF community nurseries. Still, plans for fun and games with staff and children run alongside those for contingency measures, as we do all we can to ensure London’s great event in no way threatens delivery of our high quality service for parents across the capital. And whilst I know some people think I am being unduly pessimistic about the traffic gridlock the Olympics will bring, I felt completed mitigated in my anxiety on Wednesday, when the State Opening of Parliament brought roads around our Central Office to a complete standstill. As I began my journey back to Marsham Street for a midday meeting, not one taxi moved on Piccadilly. I spent £10 in one cab, before climbing out after barely half a mile. Had I not been wearing high heels, I might have hot-footed it across Green Park. However, the prospect of blisters kept me there, and the meeting was cancelled. Luckily, colleagues from the south were stranded on their side of the river and so abandoned their journey too. So I rest my case about transport gridlock, and continue to urge all nurseries to get their Olympic contingency plans firmed up ASAP!
On a final note this week, the Children and Families Bill was outlined in the Queen’s Speech, covering a broad range of policy areas. Much of this builds on previous announcements made by Nick Clegg on parental leave, and in the Family Justice Review and the SEN Green Paper. Overall, the bill will look to:
- Strengthen the role of Children’s Commissioner
- Make parental leave more flexible
- Improve service provision for children with SEN and disabilities
- Reform the court process relating to looked after children
The exact detail of the bill is yet to be agreed, yet already I am finding it hard to see any attention paid to small children in the SEN changes. This will be critical as we roll out the Two Year Old Offer, not least as we try to get speedy assessment and family support for the youngest children with SEN. I am also worried about how the sector will manage parental leave. Will it provide us with more staff cost at a time we can least afford it? Am I right to worry – or should I look to the words of another Roman…
I often regret that I have spoken; never that I have been silent.
Publilius Syrus (Roman author, 1st century B.C.)
As always, please add your thoughts or experiences in relation to all or any of the above in the box below – and let’s keep the conversation going!