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Childcare, Choice and Social Class Carol Vincent, Stephen Ball and Annette Braun Centre for Critical Education Policy Studies Institute of Education University.

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Presentation on theme: "Childcare, Choice and Social Class Carol Vincent, Stephen Ball and Annette Braun Centre for Critical Education Policy Studies Institute of Education University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Childcare, Choice and Social Class Carol Vincent, Stephen Ball and Annette Braun Centre for Critical Education Policy Studies Institute of Education University of East London December 15 th 2008

2 Outline The research projects Choice and class The market in childcare Choosing childcare - the practicalities - relationships with carers - choosing safety/choosing intimacy - segregation Some concluding thoughts

3 The working class research project (2005-7) 70 families in London: 36 in Battersea, 34 in Stoke Newington 28 have African/Caribbean origins, 29 white UK/white other, 8 Asian subcontinent 30 are lone mothers Ages range from are young mothers 40 live in council/HA accommodation, 13 live with family Diverse educational qualifications: 22 have either no qualifications or O levels/GCSE, 14 have FE qualifications, 8 have degrees (obtained through non-traditional routes) 28 women don’t work outside the home, 18 work f/time, 17 work p/time, 7 are students. 28 families have children in full time childcare

4 The middle class project (2001-4) Located in Battersea and Stoke Newington, London ‘Service class’ families 57 mothers, 14 fathers, from 59 families A highly educated group (e.g 46% of mothers having post graduate qualifications) Mostly white (except 3) Mostly in heterosexual partnerships (except 1) Mostly owner occupiers, no-one in public sector housing

5 Choice “Since the status quo is inequitable there is every reason to believe that extending choice to everyone should produce greater equity”. Michael Barber New York Times 13th January 2006

6 Researching choice Most of the research is around choice of primary/secondary school (see e.g. Ball 2003) Key role of mothers and the importance of the affective – but in other respects choice-making is the site of significant class differences Middle class parents are understood to be in possession of the skills, resources and inclination with which to choose a school Anxiety and strategy Amongst working class families: attachment to local, familiar, communal. Importance of the practical. These priorities are not represented well, if at all, within choice policies, which privilege the logics of individualised families and the maximisation of their self-interest.

7 Choice and childcare Marked increase in provision under New Labour. Childcare redefined as public, not private, issue ‘Mixed economy’ of provision A peculiar and impossible market?

8 The morality of childcare choice Duncan and colleagues: believing people make decisions around childcare and paid work in an individualistic and impersonal fashion is a ‘rationality mistake’ (Duncan et al 2003, Carling et al 2002) Parental decisions around childcare are a complex mixture of practical and moral concerns, social relations are as least as important as economic relations. ‘People do not act in an individualistic economically rational way. Rather they take such decisions with reference to moral and socially negotiated views about what behaviour is right and proper, and this varies between particular social groups, neighbourhoods and welfare states’ (Duncan et al 2004 p.256).

9 Making a ‘continual enterprise of ourselves’ (Gordon 1991) I was just getting over the childbirth thing and venturing out of the house and people said, ‘so, what schools?’ And I just thought, but she’s a little baby, but you have to put them down. I sort of got panicky, then I researched it. I brought the books, ‘The Top 500 Schools’ and you just read, and obviously area, and you just try and dwindle it down…so I was ringing round when [daughter] was five months old for an [independent ] school at 4, and then I worked backwards….What I did was speak to the admission secretary and said ‘which [nursery] school do you find that seems to have a similar way of teaching?’, and they give you a list. They can’t recommend, all they can say is statistically speaking we get 6 from [child’s current nursery school ] and 5 from [competitor nursery] (Suzannah, white with partner, Stoke Newington (SN), participant in middle class project )

10 Choice and class Suzannah’s choice making should not be seen as normative The practices and meanings of choice are subject to significant social, cultural and economic variations in terms of what, how, and why people choose, and who gets their choices. For the working class respondents: an alternative set of priorities, involving attachments to local and communal, are in play.

11 Choosing childcare A peculiar market Silences and absences: relationships with carers Markets differently position different respondents –Cost and practicalities Choosing safety? - Avoidance of unknown carers –Importance of family Choosing intimacy? - Home based care - Choosing similarity, choosing difference

12 A peculiar market? Services required are complex and unusual: ‘safety, happiness, love’ Infused with emotions: positivity, ambivalences, compromises and anxieties Supply-side led market – consumer voice? Highly gendered market – workers are poorly paid and many with low level of qualifications Highly segmented and diverse market – leading to social segregation? Parts of the market position parents as employers, usually with their own homes as the workplace

13 Silences and absences 1 Consumers have inadequate supplies of information about services, especially since their concerns are not primarily about pedagogy or child staff ratios, but about whether carers will sufficiently care for and care about their child (Moss 2008).

14 Silences and absences 2 Both working and middle class mothers had difficulty in establishing relationship with carers in which they felt they could speak freely Friendly, but superficial relationships. Parents uncertain as to their claims on carer’s time. Parental priority is to preserve untroubled relationships for child’s sake ‘Co-ordinated care’ (Uttal 1996), i.e. care that arises from practice underpinned by shared parent-carer values was difficult to find Absence of a vocabulary of care in parent-carer relationships.

15 The only thing is that they’re putting [babies] out in the garden even on a windy day, and I mean a moderately chilly day. Because I did question them. Several times I’ve questioned it [….] They said oh it’s nice fresh air’…And I think it’s something they’ve been doing maybe for years and they are just going to do it anyway, whatever I say (Tomi, Battersea (B)., participant in working class project) Judy describes how both her nanny and her childminder were very much in control of the care relationship. and I think one of the problems, the downside of [childminder] was that she was one of these very ‘my way goes’ people [….] So [nanny] took us on; and very much took us on and, again, slightly in control. I have to say, [she], again, even though she’s a nanny, she was quite a, you know, she ran her show (Judy, SN. Participant in middle class project) ‘

16 Sometimes I think ‘Oh gosh they’re probably wanting rid of me?” because I spend like ten minutes or so when I pick her up just talking to them. ….I mean..they don’t tend to say anything like ‘Oh well, Alanis, you’ve been here for ten minutes now, it’s time for you to go’, but sometimes you do feel like, ‘I think I’ve been here a bit too long now’ (Alanis, B. participant in working class project) Judy (SN) moves a child from one nursery to another (very expensive) one, when the first became ‘chaotic’. ‘So, then we walked down the road to [private nursery] and went in and said, “can we look round?”

17 Silences and absences 3 Middle class parents more able to ‘exit’ unsuitable care situations Mother-care relationship one of opposing and rival standpoints, with the possibility of fracture and dissension Tensions arise because relationship is both a financial and emotional exchange

18 Silences and absences 4: At home carers Tension most marked in family relationships with individual carers. Class-based, emotion-based and exchange based tensions. Choosing similarity, choosing difference

19 Making a choice Markets present differently to differently positioned respondents. Respondents in the two projects had access to very different ‘circuits’ of provision First project: a complex and dynamic market, with informed and active consumers. Providers included day nurseries, nursery schools and nursery classes in both the private and state sectors, childminders and nannies. Second project: the childcare market as experienced by working class parents was far more uniform in terms of provision, and low key in terms of consumer activity. Mostly state / voluntary sector daycare provision, little contact with private providers (1 exception) Broader range of pedagogies apparent in the private nurseries visited for the middle class project

20 Making the choice Details of making choices were superficially similar for both groups The middle class respondents often visited four or five providers, and in the process, sometimes changed their minds about which type of provider – childminder, nanny or nursery – they wanted The working class parents were constrained in their choice by cost and by practicalities. Mostly they visited just one or two nurseries, often not doing so before they were offered a place.

21 Costs Daycare Trust 2008 Childcare Costs survey: the typical cost of a full-time nursery place for a child under two is £159 a week in England, over £8000 a year, a rise of nearly 5 per cent on last year. In London the cost of a nursery place is much higher - typically £200 a week. Financial resources varied amongst middle class sample: full time live-out nannies, as well as cheaper, but fragile, ‘patchworks’ of care Working class respondents in paid employment heavily dependent on childcare element of WTC

22 Cost and ‘exit’ Mother: [Private nursery] was two hundred and ninety-five pounds. And the price list said two hundred and ninety-five pounds and I actually phoned them up and said, “Is that a week or a month?” and they said, “Well, it’s a week” as if I was off another planet. So, yeah Father: [interrupting] Gold star tuition apparently. Mother: Because that’s another thing, [current nursery] is one of the cheapest nurseries around (£167 pw). (Isabel and Mike, white UK parents, Battersea, participants in working class project)

23 Choosing safety When I got the list of childminders and looking through it, I’m thinking, you know, because I didn’t know if I could trust them, I didn’t know if…You know I was frightened for him to go to somebody and you know, you hear all the stories about shaking babies and things like that […] There was one [on the list] she was a friend of a friend that I work with and I knew of her…but she didn’t have any places…So that’s when I had to consider people I didn’t know ( Claire, black lone mother, SN, participant in working class project)

24 Choosing safety 2 You don’t know who these people are [childminders]. But nurseries and that employ people, and they have safety checks on those people so I feel it’s not exactly a total stranger because they’re checked out before they are employed and they have references and that sort of thing. So in that way I would trust them (Andrea, B., white young lone mother, participant in working class project) I’m not hot on childminders. None of my kids went to childminders, they all went to my mum’s or nursery…You see the nursery workers, they’re trained, they’ve got qualifications, they’re always someone supervising on what they are doing. They can’t be supervised in the home….My mum would have been fine. Only my mum.. (Jill, SN, black lone mother, participant in working class project).

25 Choosing intimacy? I didn’t like the idea of warehousing….I think warehousing a lot of babies together in a room didn’t really seem particularly healthy to me. I don’t think from a social point of view it was a particularly natural state of affairs having 12 babies in a room with 4 adults…Too many people, too many babies…That doesn’t seem to me to be a particularly natural way for small children to be raised……There’s a lot less chance of a child being battered in a nursery [but] I thought there was quite a high chance of them not getting what I would think of as appropriate love and attention…You do need another mummy while you are at work (Isobel, B. white, participant in middle class project)

26 Choosing intimacy? I just thought [pre-children], a nursery – it’s there, it’s easy, it’s cheap, to be honest. That was the main presumption. And round here there just aren’t very many childminders, or they’re very difficult to find. So, that wasn’t really on the, the list at all. It was [private day nursery chain] which we chose. And it just, when it came to it, she just didn’t settle at all. And I didn’t really like it. The, I think it was when I looked at it as a non-parent- when I looked at it as a parent I felt very differently about – and she was quite young, she was five months – and I just felt it wasn’t actually right for there to be this number of, sort of, little babies in this room and, you know, not really enjoying it at all. And certainly my older one, she just would not- she really disliked it, she screamed as soon as she went in, sort of thing. So, we just decided [after two days] it wasn’t gonna work. And thank goodness for that (Kathryn, B. white, with partner, participant in middle class project)

27 Trusting the ‘grey market’ I put an ad out in Church Street. I just put an ad up [laughing]. I just leafleted kind of round the local area. […] I just thought I’d see if anything came my way and it was an incredible response. Really, really quick response. […] We got about 12 people really quickly ringing up, of whom I’d say 7 or 8 were completely barking. […] And then [carer] was the first one I actually met and I just really liked her, and really trusted her instinctively and then I phoned up the people she was working for, she was already working for someone else, looking after 2 boys. [….] She was a student, she wanted cash. It’s all been done on trust and it has worked. (Anna, SN, white, with partner, participant on the middle class project).

28 Lack of trust I’m the mum, I don’t leave her. Anyway she’s at the clingy stage, first it was me actually [feeling ‘clingy’] and then it started to rub off on her..I am going to try and leave her with [friend from group], but when I leave her, I keep checking on her. [I have left her in the Sure Start] crèche about two or three times which was OK, but I kept checking on her to make sure there wasn’t anything going on that I didn’t want. Like people leaving her with small things about that she might pick up, or giving her food when I don’t want her to be fed, or when she’s standing because they might think she’s OK and then she might fall. Just feeling protective (Laura, B., young white, at home lone mother, participant in working class project)

29 Policy implications: Segregation In the current mixed economy of childcare provision, working class and middle class families use different ‘circuits’ of provision. It is clear from interviews with parents in both research projects, that the possibilities of who their children are, their subjectivities and individualities - how their days are structured, their activities, for example - who they mix with, who cares for them, what they learn (in the broadest social sense), and who they might become are, for these very young children, shaped by the nuances and detail of their parents’ classed locations and practices.

30 Policy implications: Class and choice ‘Choices’ are framed by norms, of community and religion and family, webs of social relationships continue to be of importance when seeking to ‘do the right thing’ for children, where doing ‘the right thing’ is located in concrete circumstances and social contexts Thus, choice is not as purely individualised and rational as is often presented in policy Middle class families likely to have have plentiful and relevant resources of capital, which give them a degree of freedom to choose a logic of choice. Working class families have much less flexibility. In using all day, full- time daycare (28/70) in order to allow themselves to engage in paid work, are working class mothers at risk of being labeled ‘bad’ mothers for not spending time with their children? Implications for providers: –The apparently low status of childminders –Relationships between parents and carers


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