Tuesday, April 23, 2024
HomeNewsChris McGovern: Ofsted chief Wilshaw trusts the State not poorer parents

Chris McGovern: Ofsted chief Wilshaw trusts the State not poorer parents


The head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, is worried that the State is not making enough inroads into parenting disadvantaged children. He wants more 2-year-olds from poorer backgrounds to be in school. Forty two per cent of all such toddlers are eligible for a government-funded place at nursery school but only 9 per cent are taking up the option.

Eighty five per cent of  nursery schools, he reports, are now rated good or outstanding and he wants to see them benefitting the under-privileged poor rather than what he considers to the over-privileged middle classes.

He  had no intention of questioning whether the State should be acting as surrogate parents for children of such a young an age. His only concern, and desire, is that more 2-year-olds should be recruited because he believes that the State makes for a better parent. In other words, he want to deal with the symptoms of what he regards as poor parenting rather than seeking out, and dealing with, the causes.

What this  means, in reality, is that he has given up on the capabilities of that 42 per cent of parents whose offspring qualify them for financial support. These children are, apparently, better off away from their parents. What exactly this indicates about our society, he chooses not to address, but neither he, nor the Government, should be pemitted to sidestep the question. Burying heads in the sand is no way to confront what amounts to social and moral collapse.

Wilshaw cannot quite ignore the case for toddlers remaining with their parents at the age of two. He seems to think, however, that this is a viable course of action only for more affluent mums and dads:

“The reality is that those better off children don’t get any particular advantage from being in a school from the age of two – they would be just as well catered for from an educational perspective in a private nursery, a child minder or indeed” – heaven forbid – “at home.”

Sir Michael’s statistical data may point clearly to educational advantages in getting less well-off 2-year-olds away from home but most of these children’s parents, perhaps seeing a broader picture, remain unconvinced. For millennia, maternal and paternal instinct have ensured the protection and well being of children. Totalitarian societies have consistently tried and failed to trump what mum and dad can offer to babies and toddlers.

Sadly, Sir Michael seems unwilling to place much faith in the parents of the poor. Their views are written off. He knows what is best for children. He states that “someone” needs to speak to these parents to “make sure they know what their child needs”. The “someone” he suggests is the health visitor, who is about to be brought under local authority control.

President Reagan once said that the most terrifying words in the English language are: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” If you are the parent of a 2-year-old, it might be wise and in the best interests  of your child, to pull up the drawbridge when the government comes ‘a knocking’ to help you.


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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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