What is your child’s daycare worth? |


Most of us, if asked to name the most precious thing in our life, would say without hesitation, “Our children”.

So how come the preschool child care industry – and its workers – is so undervalued?

Working Week talks to Gary and Laura Peirce, owners of Hopes and Dreams nurseries.

“I think Covid has produced a number of interesting results. One is a better understanding of the role that child care plays, for the island, for the children, for our economy, ”explains Gary Peirce.

He and his wife, Laura, operate six nurseries around the island: Parklands in Mooragh Park, Woodbourne Road and Tennis Road in Douglas and at Ballassalla, Ashley Hills and Rushen Schools. They also run Buzz, an after school and vacation club. In total, they are registered to care for 335 children.

Covid saw the preschool sector designated by the government as a sector of strategic national importance, as a number of nurseries remained open during the lockdown to care for the children of key workers.

Gary now represents the sector on the government’s Child Care Strategy Task Force, as well as representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, the Department of Enterprise, Education, Treasury and Social Services. .

He says: “They have recognized the importance of working with the sector, which is very positive and we are delighted to be playing our part in this area.”

However, for Gary, the task force’s mission is problematic as he explains, “We are planning to offer childcare services for children under two years old. My concern is that what is best for the children is not really the group’s mandate, which is to solve a problem of lack of child care.

“There is a demand and a lack of supply for those under two years old and that has an impact on the ability of people to return to work.

“We do not have children under two years old in our nurseries and the reason is personal, it is our position. We don’t think a nursery is the best place for children under two. Child development does not provide a need for them to have this group care environment.

“While accepting that not everyone has the opportunity to make the choice they want, for us, it is better for the less than two to be with the parents; then extended family members such as grandparents, and beyond, childminders because they are closest to the family environment. Nurseries are next in fourth place on the list.

Gary’s preferred option would be to have childminder incentive and mentoring programs to increase the numbers.

Caring for children under two is just not cost effective for nurseries, due to staff ratios, but as Gary says, preschool workers are still woefully undervalued.

He says: “The nursery costs parents a lot of money, it is not cheap.

“The government recognizes the value of it and is offering this preschool year because it knows it’s really important for kids and saves them money later on, but there is still not enough money in it. the industry to pay people what they’re worth, which is such a shame.

“We have fought hard to strengthen recognition of what they do, the value they bring and the importance of their role.

“Taking care of someone else’s child and helping them prepare for life is nothing more important, but not everyone appreciates it the same way as someone else. ‘one sitting in an office moving money across a screen and being comparatively well paid.

“But our people aren’t motivated by money, they’re motivated by just loving what they do, which is very lucky for us.”

In recent years, much research has shown the importance of the preschool years in the development of children. The Duchess of Cambridge defended recognition of this. Earlier this year, she launched the Royal Foundation Center for Early Childhood, a new initiative dedicated to raising awareness about this crucial time in a child’s life.

It’s all part of a growing recognition that it’s not enough for a young child to be kept safe and busy while we’re at work.

As Gary says, “For us, it’s not about preparing children for school, it’s about preparing them for life, and in fact, children’s brains develop the most between three and three. five years is therefore an absolutely essential part of a child’s development, the age group that we want to focus on and be an expert on. ‘

Gary’s wife, Laura, was a schoolteacher and vice-principal for 25 years before joining the company. This included three years of pre-school assessment. She also sits on the Early Childhood Special Needs Code of Practice Working Group.

She and Gary implemented the curiosity approach in their nurseries. This disrupts a large part of the traditional thought around the preschool offer. Modern toys and technology are being removed from the learning environment and replaced with everyday objects to encourage children’s natural curiosity and imagination as well as their thirst to explore and create. ‘

Laura explains, “We want to encourage children with a growing mindset, not a fixed mindset.

“It allows children to value their own curiosity through a lot of things, for example ‘spare parts’. When you put the children’s clothes in the washing machine, their pockets are full of stones, sticks, string, pine cones, all kinds of things, and there is a real lack of plastic.

“In the nursery, there is also an obvious lack of plastic and it’s not about getting rid of plastic, it’s about getting these children to be creative. So instead of having a [toy] garage which could only be a garage, we give the children boards, blocks, ramps and they could do anything with them.

Gary adds, “What we’re trying to influence is empowering children to learn rather than ‘making them learn’. If they come with 10 other kids, we make them sit and paint for that half hour block, and then we get them to go somewhere else, that’s programming the kids to be busy.

“Children are born with an innate curiosity for the world, this is how they learn, usually through play, so we want to make sure they are engaged in it. Children will be deeply engaged in learning when they are playing, as long as it is something that interests them.

Laura says, “Kids really need two hours of non-stop play where they can really learn and the adults are there to help the kids make that easier. It is about giving this time to the children.

There are a growing number of ‘curiosity-based’ nurseries in the UK, but so far Hopes and Dreams is accredited to offer this approach on the island.

Gary said: “We introduced it two years ago and it has drastically changed what we can do for kids.”

Laura added: “We have a real passion for children and for the industry. We want to provide top quality child care because children deserve it and families deserve it. ‘

In a separate box:

The Isle of Man Government Day Care Registration and Inspection Unit sets minimum standards for day care centers and other child care settings.

These include standards for qualifications and staff ratios.

The recognized qualifications are the level 2 and level 3 diplomas in child care and education.

All supervisors must hold an appropriate Level 3 diploma for child care or child development while at least 50% of all other child care staff on duty at any given time must have, as a minimum, an appropriate level 2 qualification for early childhood care or development.

Staff ratios should be: one staff member for three children under 2 and one for eight children aged 2 to 7.

Each crèche will set its own rates of pay, but for an average salary of 37 and a half weeks for the sector, it ranges from £ 16,000 to £ 19,000.


About Lillian Coomer

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