| Helen Sharp
Care is an activity that once relied almost entirely on time and on the quality of human relationships but now leans heavily on a chronically low-paid and under-valued workforce increasingly run by just a few big firms seeking to maximise profit. (Lucie Stephens, New Economics Foundation)
Scallywags was the first parent partnership nursery that I came across – it’s a co-operative model of childcare in practice; this type of childcare is not that common in this country although other countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Italy have embraced it.
At Scallywags, they believe that children’s needs are met through a nursery’s partnership with parents/carers, and are a major factor in children’s learning, confidence-building and self-esteem. This is a fundamental principle across the entire early years sector, and one that Scallywags take a few steps further than most. The nursery accepts children on the basis that their parents agree to be placed on the weekly rota to voluntarily work alongside the qualified staff. In this way, the skill of the professional workers is combined with the lived experience of the families; the children are cared for by a more diverse range of people who can contribute time and a rich variety of skills to the management of the nursery; the parents spend more time with their children and increase their knowledge of early years through formal training and shared experiences with other parents and staff. And the cherry on the top – all this extra resource leads to cheaper nursery costs!
Scallywags has also established an exchange programme with the residents of Silk Court, a local care home in Bethnal Green. Not only do the children play and interact with the residents at the home, the residents also visit the nursery and join the children in their activities such as cooking, painting and playing.
Parent-led co-operative models of childcare like Scallywags combine decent pay and conditions for staff with control and affordability for parents. There is a real interest in increasing the number and range of these nurseries across the UK and we will be interviewing one of the protagonists pushing this agenda in the next few weeks.