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Working parents 'need not feel guilty'

A new study into childcare says emotional and social development are not harmed by non-parental care.

The study, by researchers at London University, comes days after the Pounds 300 million package to create out-of-school clubs was announced by the Government.

Drawing on more than 40 years of research into child development, the report concluded that parents need not feel guilty about leaving children with carers.

Researchers Ann Mooney and Anthony Munton at the Thomas Coram Research Unit at the university's Institute of Education, say the nature of families has changed so much over the past 25 years that "most working parents now need access to some form of childcare". They say current arguments should be about access and quality, not making working mothers feel guilty.

Ms Mooney said: "Labour force figures show that around three-quarters of two-parent families with dependent children are in the labour force. Access is extremely important because unequal access promotes segregation and inequality. "Many of the problems in the current fragmented system are due to a false spilt between education and care. They should be integrated."

The package announced by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, will create 30, 000 after-school clubs, providing places for almost a million children over the next five years. It will included childcare training for up to 50,000 young people through the welfare-to-work programme.

Margaret Morrissey of the National Confederation of Parent- Teacher Associations, said it was "just the tonic working parents needed".

However, Nigel de Gruchy general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, expressed concern about extra duties teachers may have to take on in order to keep the clubs open.

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