My first proposal was for a radical re-think of the Welfare State. I have ideas for all the areas covered by the 5 giants, but my part 2 focuses on ideas for improvements in meeting the needs of children and their carers, helping to tackle at least 3 of the 5 giants in the process.
Support should be offered from birth to 18, so that children can always have somewhere to be when parents/carers are not available. This could happen in existing schools, nurseries, in separate children’s centres, and/or through more formal networking of childcare providers. Libraries, museums and shopping centres would also have a role to play.
Between them, these children’s places should be available all year round for long daytime hours e.g. 6 a.m.- 8 p.m., including weekends and even Bank Holidays.
Academic education should be provided, as now, mainly by qualified teachers, with a separate team (Team B) providing care, activities and entertainment outside the academic timetable. This team would include a wide spectrum of people with all sorts of skills and interests, including craftspeople, artists, musicians, and many could be students.
The main academic curriculum should be covered in the autumn and spring terms, stopping at the summer half term. The summer months, June July and August would be very different from now.
“Team B” would take over and would offer:
1. a wide range of optional activities outdoors and indoors, including exercise, sport, forest school, gardening, arts, crafts, music, plus fun and games.
2. catch-up sessions for children who have missed school or fallen behind for any reason
3. opportunities for online learning on or off the premises
4. opportunities for travel for children to experience town or country – whichever is not their normal.
During the summer, school attendance would not be compulsory except perhaps for any catch-up sessions recommended by teachers. Otherwise, attendance would be expected for part of the summer programme, but negotiable.
I consider these changes go a long way to tackle a specific problem highlighted by Covid lockdowns: the need that children of all ages have for daily access to space for physical activity, whatever the weather. This is crucial to their mental health. More facilities will need to be provided.
This approach to meeting the needs of children would have benefits for others, including:
1. providing reliable part-time income for a whole range of self-employed people
2. bringing life back to town centres, so that families can take part in satisfying activities along with shopping and business.
3. massively reducing stress on working parents
4. extending the holiday season for families nationally, making it more manageable for all concerned.
This competition does not require me to explain how all this would be paid for.
It might not be as expensive as it seems, and some of it could be paid for by those who can afford it.