Oliver Black is one of the UK’s better known childcare entrepreneurs – the founder of My Family Care and a non-executive director at Tinies and Conviviality. My Family Care was founded in 2006 with support from IBM’s work / life balance fund and has established itself as the leading provider of work and family solutions for many of the UK’s best-known employers including IBM, Pfizer, Shell, P&G, Freshfields, UBS, Barclays, Baker & McKenzie, Bank of America, McKinsey, Deloitte, Citi, KPMG, Rolls-Royce and Santander. In his spare time Oliver is a proud father of three young children, which some describe as “living the brand” and is a fan of endurance races and sport.
“…my children have just gone back to school, having enjoyed eight weeks of summer holidays. I love my children to bits, but it does seem odd that the reason we have this eight weeks is based on the history of the children being around to help gather in the harvest…”
Shortage of after-school care
Womanthology asked if I would comment on the recent Family & Childcare Trust report about the lack of childcare. It revealed that 28% of Britain’s local councils are short of after-school care in their areas.
Let’s be clear, the main thrust of the report is that the shortage is in certain areas of the country and it isn’t so much early years childcare, but that difficult bit of afterschool from 3.30pm onwards and school holidays.
I don’t have any clever ideas on how one solves this easily. However, my children have just gone back to school, having enjoyed eight weeks of summer holidays. I love my children to bits, but it does seem odd that the reason we have this eight weeks is based on the history of the children being around to help gather in the harvest. Equally it does seem strange that school finishes at 3.30pm, especially when the majority of us work a full eight hour day – or sometimes more.
Challenging the status quo
I’ve written some articles recently on whether our children start school too early and whether we ought to follow a more Nordic model in terms of children starting school later. We have a wonderful education system. If we want to continue this tradition, the challenges that Mr Gove has levelled at it, whether or not you agree, are good thing. Challenging the status quo and relooking at how we do things is a sign of progress.
In our business we continually talk about the customer, being customer focused and providing what they need. If parents are the customer (working or otherwise) then the current service provided by schools (eight weeks closure, finishing at 3.30pm etc.) doesn’t seem to meet their needs. If you could solve this conundrum, then the need for and current lack of after school and school holiday clubs would go away.
As I said, pointing out the problems is easier that finding the real solutions. But currently it seems we are putting sticky plasters over something that actually needs stitches.