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It's a very long time since I read 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451, so my recollection of them is hazy and there's a good chance that my view of them has merged into one. It was so long ago that I was young and impressionable and possibly even idealistic, so perhaps their effect on me was greater than it need have been. But the picture I carry with me, and fear, is of a dark, unsatisfactory world of oppression and sterility created by state interference in the lives of its citizens. An interference which starts at birth (BNW I think) when newborn babies are handed over to state nursemaids for rearing in the proper beliefs, and continues throughout life with the state's notions broadcast through speakers or TV sets.

I started to draw parallels with real life when Gordon Brown introduced the Child Trust Fund - the thin end of a wedge, I thought, exaggerating slightly, a down payment on a Faustian pact in which your baby's soul is sold to the state for £250. Put this together with a few other developments. The tendency to take children into school at ever younger ages, with ever more prescriptive curricula. The raising of the school leaving age. Paying young adults to stay at school even beyond the leaving age. Making University education available to 50% of school leavers makes getting a degree almost compulsory simply in order to compete for those jobs that will be considered good. And where will those jobs be? With your local council, perhaps, or a Quango, or central government, as one of the ever increasing number of civil servants. A job from which you will retire to collect a state pension. Combine this with the dumbing down of education - A level results have "improved" every year for about 25 years now, something which simply is not possible in real life in any field of endeavour. Poor performance in the newly invented GCSE baccalaureate shows how far we have drifted from the basics. Hornsey Library has about one third the number of books it had when I started going there, and Haringey now have plans to turn it into a medical / jobs / citizens' advice centre.

So I can see very many children born today attending state run institutions from 2 or 3 years old, continually up to the age of 22 or 23, at which point they are heavily indebted to the state, working for the state until they retire whereupon the state takes over responsibility for nursing them into their graves. And these are the lucky ones. Those that don't get the GCSEs will live on benefits alone, a fate that has already befallen three generations of some families. 

So, I wonder, where do Children's Centres fit into this?

To find out I turn to the documentation (I have no personal experience or prior knowledge). The opening paragraph of the consultation document reads:

"High quality early year’s provision, including Children’s Centre services are a proven element of prevention and early intervention and have a profound impact on the life chances of children into adulthood"

So they prevent something, but what is not specified, and enable early intervention, again, to what end is not specified. But intervention is the very thing I fear. And there is a misplaced apostrophe. So far I am not convinced by the people running this consultation 

Paragraph 2 reads:

"[. . . . ]The intention has been to provide ‘one stop shop’ access to services for all children under five, particularly for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children within every community."

Its not clear if they actually mean "all children" or if they have targeted a subset that are especially easy to influence. 

So far this is not a good document. It continues with some whinging about Government cuts, and then goes on to use particularly ugly neologisms "full offer" and "standard offer"

They say "Providing a full offer of children’s centre service" when they mean "Providing all children’s centre services"

And the standard offer is not standard at all, it is very much reduced, compared with what they do now.

So, seeking for further information I turn to Directgov which contains the sentence "Children’s centres are developed in line with the needs of the local community so no one children’s centre is the same"  I can hardly bear to read more.  The people who write this are being put in charge of our nation's education?

I turn to our local bulleting boards where the contributors are lucid, articualte and have a grasp of both grammar and punctuation.

Cupcake on this site writes of a very positive experience with Children's Centres - "[they] saved my life". The aspects she lists as valuable are neutral surroundings, a diverse mix of people. painting, dance and playgroups for her children. I understand that this may not be an exhaustive list of useful characteristics, but all these things need only a largish room and a reason to congregate.

Liz on HoL has raised this topic. Unusually for HoL no one has replied. Liz writes "The Ladder governors would urge as many people as possible to complete the questionnaire and make it clear if they find that the information is inadequate." Yes but that's how Haringey does consultations. And, there is little or no chance any response will be listened to. So the governors are not employing their energies as well as they might. 

I think they should let the Children's Centres close but negotiate with Church Halls and the like to provide Cupcake and others like her with the neutral space they need, for the activities they enjoy. If they have a folder on hand with the telephone numbers of the services the Centre offers might or might not offer, these spaces would effectively become the one stop shop.

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Tags: crouch, crouchend, end, haringey, hornsey, london, n8

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Comment by CrouchEnd Cupcake on April 4, 2011 at 7:00
Some real food for thought here Adrian and some really common sense thinking.  I'm going to watch this space with interest to see what others think of your ideas.  I may change my mind (I've never been known to stick hard and fast on one opinion) but for now what you are proposing seems eminently achievable.  My key questions would be, is it the physical space that's at stake with the provision of services at the said Children's Centres or the resources to fund the services?  Who would run the services in Church Halls and how would they be funded?

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