New charter's focus on children

A charity has launched a charter for children and parents which it hopes the Government will adopt.

The Daycare Trust's nine-point list emphasises good childcare as a child's right. The first pledge states: "Children come first. Childcare services should be organised around children's individual needs and children's opinions should be sought and listened to."

Other points include the right to be healthy - "childcare services should provide good food and exercise" - and that childcare should pay attention to the needs of the whole family. The charter also says that children love to learn and that "childcare services should help children learn through play, spontaneous activities and a planned curriculum".

The charter aims to protect children as the Government expands its early years strategy.

Colette Kelleher, the director, said: "Ten years ago the idea that children's views could be taken seriously in their own right was unheard of. They were seen in terms of either being little adults in the making or as vulnerable angels in need of protection. We would take the view that they are consumers and citizens in their own right."

Earlier this year the charity found that toddlers at nursery enjoyed it because they felt safe, loved, liked learning and saw it as an opportunity to meet friends. Ms Kelleher said: "We have to get away from the idea that childcare is no more than a poor substitute for parents. It should be something children enjoy, look forward to and see as a positive experience. The charter is about putting down markers for that."

The Government has already announced a childcare tax credit, a mass expansion of nursery places for three and four-year-olds, the Sure Start programme for under-threes, an overhaul of regulations and a consultation on training for childcarers.

Ms Kelleher said: "We've got most of the pieces of the jigsaw in place. But there's no blueprint, so only time will tell if it all works."

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