| Helen Sharp
It was my time in Early Years which really opened my eyes to the constraints of our systems and I witnessed at first hand, our inability to trust and let go.
I cut my teeth at collaborative commissioning within the Youth sector, which compared to other sectors, was relatively welcoming. I do however, remember one particular service manager challenging the idea of co-production, during a meeting with 90 other participants with the exclamation “we shouldn’t be giving kids more power, we should be taking it away – they’re out there killing each other”. I’m not sure he made many friends that day…
It was my time in Early Years which really opened my eyes to the constraints of our systems and I witnessed at first hand, our inability to trust and let go. For some people, Early Years is a very risky business. Children are involved and where there are children, there are people who want to hurt them. I don’t deny this fact, but we have become so focused on risk, we’ve forgotten that in fact, the community is a safe place.
Whatever happened to “it takes a village to raise a child”? In today’s society this might read “it takes a team of early years’ specialists with current enhanced DBS checks to raise a child”! I’m sure they should be in the mix, but what about all those parents, grandparents, neighbours, shop keepers – all those vibrant and talented people that make up a community who a child is likely to meet as they grow up?
When we talked to parents about who they turn to for help in raising their children, almost every one of them said ‘other parents’ first and foremost; the early years’ specialist came further down the list, just below the GP. So doesn’t it make sense to invest in building networks between parents, involving parents in the design and delivery of early years’ provision and tapping into all of their passions, gifts and skills.
This resource is unbounded and shouldn’t be squashed by our risk averse legislation. For anyone working in Early Years – parents have to be the ‘go-to’ community – let’s make them our priority.