The Onward March of Nanny State


Nick Clegg, Lodge Moor Nursery School, Sheffield
You're Never Too Young to be Checked on by the Bureaucrats - image by Liberal Democrats via Flickr


The government is to overhaul the “nappy curriculum”, introduced by Labour in 2008.

The curriculum aims to set out what children should achieve up to age 5, extending the national school curriculum down into nurseries.

When it took office, the new Coalition Government commissioned an “independent” review by Action for Children of this “Early Years Foundation Stage” curriculum. The review said the curriculum was

cumbersome, repetitive and unnecessarily bureaucratic.

So are the Coalition scrapping this aimless piece of bureaucracy, and winding the clock all the way back to 2007? Of course not. They are just tinkering with it.

Today, it will be announced that a revised framework – to be introduced from this September – will dramatically cut the number of targets children are supposed to reach by the age of five, from 69 to just 17.

Just 17 boxes to tick instead of 69! Great. Still, progress. But wait, what’s this?

In a further move, it will lead to the introduction of a progress check for all two-year-olds.

Ministers insist the exact form of checks should be down to nurseries and childminders.

But a draft framework published last year suggested the assessment will test their social interaction, physical movement, self-care, speaking and listening and ability to manage feelings and behaviour. It proposed marking children against certain tasks, including whether they can pull off their socks and shoes independently or “get a tissue when necessary”.

If your two-year-old can’t take off their socks, or blow their nose on a tissue, they will be labelled as having a “problem” by the nice bureaucrats. And no doubt they will be right there to offer “help and support” to resolve the issue.

Ministers are proposing that all parents in England will be given a written summary of their child’s progress in key areas before their third birthday.

Because, of course, in the Government’s sick idea of reality, parents have no idea how their children are doing. Parents never talk to their kids, or interact with them in any way. In those Ministers’ fantasies, the only role for parents is to produce the kids, and hand them over to a childminder or nursery – preferably run by the State.

And after all, no parents look after their own children, do they? Well, Government Ministers have never met anyone who does, so there can’t possibly be anyone, can there?

This would all be laughable if it wasn’t part of a pattern. The discredited Labour Government introduced all sorts of pointless and intrusive bureaucracy. The new Government reviews it all, rearranges it and makes things even worse, instead of simply undoing Labour’s damage.

And this would all be laughable if it wasn’t so sinister – the bureaucrats’ long term strategy is to attempt nothing less than to usurp the role of parents in bringing up children. The modus operandi is to make people feel inadequate by having their children fail meaningless tests and checks, and then smoothly step in as the worried parents have no idea how to resolve the non-existent issue.

Our Coalition government is just Labour by another name.

If I Had a Million Pounds I Would…

Gordon Brown has proposed abolishing the childcare voucher scheme that he introduced.

Is this to save money, to finally start addressing that huge budget deficit?

Nope. He wants to redirect the money to providing nursery places for two-year-olds.

The reaction from his party has been predictable. They don’t want the vouchers abolished. And now nine former Labour cabinet ministers have written to Mr Brown along the same lines.

Are they criticising Mr Brown for devoting the savings to nursery places rather than to cutting the government deficit? Are they heck. Their criticism of the proposal is that it will prevent working mothers from being able to afford to go out to work.

You can debate the merits or otherwise of the childcare voucher scheme versus toddlers’ nursery places as long as you like. But that isn’t really the point.

On the day those ex-ministers wrote that letter, Fitch ratings agency was warning that Britain faced the biggest risk of losing its AAA credit rating of any major economy, unless the next government makes serious efforts to bring spending under control. (They’ve obviously given up on the current government doing that.)

While Brown’s government squabbles over which type of childcare provision the State should provide, it is now blindingly clear to everyone outside the government that cuts are not just needed, but will be forced on whichever government is in office pretty soon.

Those Labour grandees earnestly debating which kind of childcare to provide at taxpayer’s expense rather remind me of debates that children have about “what I would do with the money if I had a million pounds”.