The Kelly School Hours

I don’t want to come across as a fuddy-duddy. I know how many working women will be absolutely thrilled that they can now make use of Kelly hours, and dump their children off at school at 8am, and then pick them up at 6pm

What if mums don’t actually want to go out to work?

This column likes to think of itself as pretty fearless, but there are some subjects which are so explosive that I hardly know how to start. “Hmmmm,” said my wife [Marina], when she heard I was going to broach the question of state-funded childcare. A frosting of ice seemed to form over the marmalade, which she was then passing towards me. “Whatever you do, don’t say anything stupid.” No fear! I gasped, and ever since I have been brooding on the most tactful way to put it.

I don’t want to seem sexist. I don’t want to come across as a fuddy-duddy. I know how many working women will be absolutely thrilled that they can now make use of Kelly hours, and dump their children off at school at 8am, and then pick them up at 6pm, after a long and butt-kicking day in the bond markets; and I want to assure all female readers – especially my wife – that I have no interest whatever in the days when women were chained to the kitchen sink. I believe in women going out to work, if they so choose. Our family is positively gluttonous for childcare of all kinds. But I want to enter the smallest, sheeplike cough of interrogation about the Government’s policy of steering ever more children toward state-funded crèches.

The other day, I found myself in an idyllic pre-school, reading The Gruffalo to a very bright bunch of three-year-olds. They were painting. They were making boats and sinking them. It was heaven, so I was quite surprised when one of the women managers said quietly to me: “Actually, I am quite old-fashioned. I think children, when they are this age, need to be at home.” She thought her pre-school was wonderful – which it is – and she was very grateful for the Sure Start funding system, by which every three-year-old in the land is entitled to five sessions of childcare per week, at a cost of £7.50 per two-and-a-half-hour session. But she tried to put a finger on her reservations. “I often feel that some of the mums just use it because they can,” she said. “I think that sometimes they use the pre-school not because they really want to, but because otherwise they think they would be losing out.” Is she on to something?

The British economy is remarkable – it is one of the ways we lead the rest of Europe – for the number of women in the labour force. An astonishing 55 per cent of women with children under the age of five are now working, and 73 per cent of women are working whose youngest child is aged five to 10. There are all sorts of reasons why those statistics should be a source of national pride. They show that we are the society where female emancipation has been most thoroughgoing. They show that we lead the Western world in the number of women who have the mental stimulation and self-esteem that goes with a job. From the point of view of the Treasury, there is the additional delight of knowing that all those working women are generating tax revenue and that, of course, is the Treasury’s idea of summum bonum, and the chief aim of all economic activity.

The only question I ask – and believe me, I ask it nervously; I ask it in the surefire knowledge that if I get the tone or balance wrong, I may be beaned with the marmalade when this article is read over breakfast tomorrow – the only question I ask is whether all women want to go out to work. I also wonder whether all women should be encouraged – as Gordon Brown fiscally encourages them – to get back on the treadmill before their children turn four. I may be wrong in this, but it strikes me that there may be huge numbers of mothers who would very much like to stay at home and look after a three-year-old, but who feel they have no option. They may feel they have to go out to work, because the family finances do not permit otherwise; not just because they need to pay a mortgage but because, like all middle- and lower-income groups in this country, they are brutally taxed by Labour.

Here, on the one hand, we have a Government that takes away 40 per cent of the income of the bottom 20 per cent of society in tax, so that young mothers are driven to supplement the family income; and there, on the other hand, we have this same Government, using the same tax money, to pay for the Sure Start and the Kelly hours, so that the very same young mothers can get out there into the workplace. It is what we call a vicious circle. I can’t help wondering whether there are other ways of doing it.

To understand what is going on, you have to think yourself into the mindset of the grandes dames of the New Labour movement – Cherie, Margaret Hodge, Polly Toynbee – and consider that they have all had fantastically busy careers, and they have paid for their nannies and au pairs out of their socking private incomes. They want to replicate this for all working women, except with state subsidy, and because they are Lefties they want the childcaring to be done in state institutions, subject to all the insanity of state regulation.

Not only do all the mums who run the pre-school I mentioned have to pass loony anti-paedophile screening procedures; they must get written permission from each parent if they want to use the paddling pool, and so on. And being Lefties, Labour folk are instinctively attracted to the idea of children being held and cared for in common, as in Plato Rep II.

Since I am a Conservative, I think it might be better if we gave those who needed it the option of using this Sure Start money to pay for, say, grandparents to mind the children, and keep the children at home. Better yet, we could have personal tax breaks for everyone who has to pay for childcare. Now that is a suggestion that should win me a vote at tomorrow morning’s breakfast.

19 thoughts on “The Kelly School Hours”

  1. Interesting article, but something is bothering me now. In the text you refer to “my wife”, i.e., “Hmmmm,” said my wife. Yet the name on the posting is Melissa! Am I missing something, or what? I always thought Melissa was a girls name.

  2. Cracking article in today’s DT, re getting mums back to work if they want to.

    You are clearly on to a good point. While it is surely a fine thing for mums to have the option to go back to work, it is not too ridiculous to fear that some mums might feel compelled to take this step, in order to be able to afford their child’s membership fees for the KellyJugend which we will subsidise via taxes whether we take advantage of the service or not.

    One point which you touched on, which you might choose to expand, either in one of your columns our as part of your day job, is tax breaks on childcare. Gordon clearly wants to get wimmin back to work, in order to get a paid a salary, half of which gets shipped to the Treasury. Where he can’t get his ideology to match his microeconomic fiddlings is that he is only offering tax breaks on a means tested basis. This is great headline grabbing stuff, helping the most needy etc., but it surely counteracts Gordon’s distributionist fervour: he should be encouraging higher paid mums back to work, so they can pay him nice fat 40% cheques, which then get ploughed back into the economy. Not only is it grossly unfair that many mums cannot access these tax breaks (unlike our egalitarian French cousins who all get the breaks as a matter of course), but it entirely defeats Gordon’s stated aim of keeping the economy firing on all cylinders. And this is not merely a matter of stopping the toffs getting a free ride, many ‘normal’ middle class parents are caught in the trap, including key workers such as teachers and nurses- remember them? Infuriating.

    Rant over.

  3. You say that Cheri Blair and gang pay for their au pairs, child minders, whatever, out of their private incomes. Maybe they do, but I am willing to bet that they pay a low wage, maybe even the minimum wage, to them!

  4. Keith – Marina now highlighted for the sake of clarity and to avoid all doubt. I hope that she will post something before long – she has written some great articles about the law and working rights/discrimination etc and it would be good to have her contribution here too.

    *Marina – do wing your piece over to us – we’d love to have it here*

    Boris Johnson’s Office

  5. Didn’t seem explosive to me! But this might be. Instead of dropping the kiddies off to listen to Boris reading a book, shouldn’t the mothers (and fathers) be at home teaching the children to read? If children were not allowed to start school until they could read, they would learn other lessons more easily when they arrived.

    Just off to hide!

  6. volley of woolly pom pom balls in Ian’s direction …

    It takes quite a gifting to teach some children to read – are parents best qualified? I daresay some might be, but please spare some of us

  7. My son’s primary has an after-school club. It’s run by the YMCA and they will open a breakfast club and an even longer after-hours club (until 6pm) when circumstances are propitious.

    Another Private Finance Initiative? The YMCA is a charity and is doing a lot for our area including 3 after-schools club (3.30 – 5.30pm) but what if Fitness First or Holmes Place muscle in on this Unique Selling Proposition?

    We know that teachers will not be dragooned into this Brave New World of babysitting more than they absolutely have to, so someone has to do the work of actually looking after the sprogs and stopping them maiming each other. Step forward, brave selfless captains of industry – well the service sector – and take an ill-deserved bow. Our babies are of coure safe in your arms – your petrochemical arms.

  8. I’m a primary school teacher with 2 degrees. When I had first child I stopped teaching to look after her. When I then had twins I had to go back to work part- time, purely for financial reasons. Two children we had planned for, not three! Did I want to return to work? No, although I enjoy my job.
    So many of my peers seem to find it necessary to justify their job as a housewife and mother. While I have no problem with salary paid mothers, I certainly will not be made to feel inadaquate because I want to look after my children myself.
    Which does make me wonder..why can’t stay at home mothers be given a taxable salary?
    Oh yes, I know why, our job descriptions would be so long that no salary would ever be enough to cover them!

  9. The family is a repository of wrong ideas, archaic values, violence, perversity, and home cooking!!! Parents are the scum of history. They are unsightly Neanderthal vermin who will be replaced shortly in our lifetime by experts whose skill at social engineering will make the family a defunct nightmare.

    Children must be removed from these scoundrels as early as possible and be taught correct facts and values by Party-approved professionals. The new generation must be pre-conditioned to live in a new society based on Marxist science.

    Comrade Kelly appreciates that the education system ought to perform the function of cleansing the disadvantaged children of conservative parents of bourgeois falsehoods, and conditioning them for the life in a progressive new European society, through instilling the correct ideas of multiculturalism, moral relativity, collectivism, and sacrifice for the greater good.

    No anarchic free market of schools should be permissible. All schools must be within the nationwide government system, armed with Party soldiers teaching the same controlled message to ensure a majority mandate for a continuation of orthodoxy.

    Children must be encouraged to report the misdeeds of one another to authorities; they should also be encouraged to denounce their parents and those teachers and guides who stray away from pre-approved textbooks.

    When are you going to get yourself re-educated Johnno? You’re living in the dark ages.

    I have expanded upon my critique of the Conservative Parties education policy here in case you are interested:

    Up the Workers!!!

  10. I can’t believe it Boris has written some sense. I get fed up with people saying …but what exactly do you do?

    One more point, this govt also wants to attract lots of lovely volunteers to become governors to help run schools. Often they are part time working mums or stay at home mums. Now they will have to implement the extended school. Great, mums who choose to stay at home will now in their spare time which is meant to be helping children will in fact be helping working mums by providing child care which stay at home mum probably won’t be able to afford.

    Boris you are on to something. But don’t put the maths stuff in there about tax it just makes alot of us glaze over.

  11. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou Boris. I’ve been a ‘Mum’ (job description) now for nearly 10 years. Who speaks for me? Who speaks for my husband who works long hours to provide sufficient income so that i don’t have to work? Certainely not the women MP’s. As you so rightly pointed out Boris they have absolutely NO IDEA about women like me, or families like us and what our needs are. they just keep telling me they’ll support me in going back to work and ignoring the fact that what i do IS work. If it isn’t then what are they paying their nannies for?
    And then they tax the hell out of my husband.Is it right that as a single man on the same wage, supporting only himself my husband would pay 25% less council tax than he has to as the sole supporter of a family of six? We’ve done the sums and calculated that if my husband rented a room off the people next door and we said we’d split up, as a family we’d increase our income to the tune of approximately 10 grand p.a Tempting though it is we won’t resort to that yet!
    Anyway, thanks again Boris and could you please get in touch with the lobbying group ‘Full Time Mothers’ ( they are fighting a valiant battle on this very issue (having come face to face with uncomprehending female MP’s and their aids who, having gone back to work when their babies were 8 weeks and 3 weeks old couldn’t ‘get’ the point of FTM’s at all)and could use all the help they can get!

  12. Happy Birthday Boris. Life Begins at 40, etc.

    I am intensely suspicious about so-called Kelly Hours. 1) who does the Education Minister think she is promoting this wizard wheeze with her own soubriquet? It took years for that slimy git Kenny Baker (respect) to have Baker Days named after him. 2) if the teachers ain’t going to run the after-school/breakfast club show, who will? Ah, Business, that’s who, gentle ladies + gentlemen (and Mac). Another PFI.

    My son’s in-school club is run by the YMCA, which is at least a charity, even though the fees are not cheap and are not affordable by many of the parents. They send their sprogs to a local authority club round the corner. It would be wonderful if the YMCA got the gig when the national programme is Rolled Out but somehow I think some half-arsed private/public partnership will be cobbled together.

    New Labour will use this initiative to tighten Business’ already iron grip on the public sector’s windpipe (The Tube-NHS foundation hospitals-City Academies).

    And a Jolly Good Thing Too I hear you cry – and stick it to the BBC while we’re at it. Per-lease. When is it going to get into your trepanned skulls that Business is neither left nor right but a Third Way (a la Musollini)? IBM and General Motors were perfectly happy to take a non-political stance and allow their German operations to help out the Nazis. See Edwin Black’s eye-opening paperback book ‘IBM and the Holocaust:The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s most Powerful Corporation’ (well, it was published in 2001 – Google or Microsoft now?).

  13. Still doing non surgical trachea blockages I see Kevin:
    you apparently forgot(?) to mention the American dyestuffs industry and their tacit acceptance of the work of their erstwhile partners in Germany 1939 /45. Immediately following the cessations of hostilities in Europe , and before the finishing of the war in the far East; prominent American political muscle was applied , ensuring that the results of work done during the war was tranferred to the American chemical industry. Better than to the Reds eh?

  14. Comrade Smirnoff:

    Brilliant perspective on the evils of the petit bourgeois British educational system! As you know, schools here exist only for indoctrination, to prepare the masses for television trash, consumerism and mortgages.

    Excruciating boredom is introduced into the syllabus to provoke hostility against education, discourage ambition and reinforce social structures. Languages are taught so badly that the local population are unable to communicate with people of other lands. Religious rituals are observed to cloud the judgement of the weak-minded, reinforce the monarchy, and discourage logical analysis.

    Time is seldom found for science classes. Technology is avoided to prevent school children relating to real life – they must write everything by hand and never use computers. Of course if they did the latter they might even grow up to be bloggers! Horror of horrors!

  15. For a minute there I thought you were going to recommend tax breaks for parents who actually bother to stay at home an do the job of bringing up their children rather than herding them off to be cared for in the state kiddy-farms.

    Ah well, maybe next time?

  16. I can’t be arsed (Language, Kev.-Ed)to post the link but the great Ted Wragg seemed pretty sound on this in the Education Grauniad. Kelly is an arse. Sorry, ****.

  17. I regret having to be the one to say this, but, if gender is placed before ability. as in positive discrimination, new Labour Style; then from to time to time , there is eventually bound to be a resounding faux pas, somewhere , on matters feminine. Exactly as one would expect in a society which was positively discriminated to favour matters masculine. To choose the best person for the job should always be the call, even if the eventual choice, as to the rectitude of that choice might upset the meaningless PC applecart.

  18. I slightly regret my intemperate duffing up of M Kelly above but really, she’ an intellectual Titan isn’t she, jut like Charlie Clarke before her and all the other incompetents who have been Minister at the DfES. Remember Blair’s education x 3? Ha ha ha, it’s enough to make a grown person weep. I would not go back to teaching even if you paid me.

    In fact, if the DfES paid teachers a decent salary (Gordon wouldn’t ever accept the inflationary and grossly imprudent salary argument)and stopped all this short fixed-term contract nonsense, they could forget about all their footling policy initiatives dreamed up by desperate administrators who wouldn’t last 5 minutes in a state school classroom if they had their bright ideas put to the test personally. Too much fiddling about, not enough common sense. Just pay teachers and lecturers (who get a particularly risible deal) a decent salary. Period. Case solved.

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