Strike creates childcare nightmare

 

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The Independent Online

With Wednesday's strike looming, parents across the country will be wondering how to cope with the prospect of school closures and a lack of childcare.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has suggested that two thirds of schools across the country will shut their doors, while the Department for Education (DfE) said it expects the "great majority" to be closed.

And Prime Minister David Cameron has called for parents to take their youngsters to work with them for the day.

Those who are not keen on their offspring spending the day in the office may find that last-minute childcare is scarce.

Ben Black of emergencychildcare.co.uk, which finds nannies, nursery places and childminders at short notice, said they had seen a surge in demand.

"So far for Wednesday we have had 260 parents book emergency childcare, on a normal day we have approx 75 parents a day booking, but this number is still going up as we are getting enquires all the time."

He estimated that they will have had close to 300 bookings by the day of the action.

Lindsey Doe from the Tinies Childcare agency said: "On a normal week Tinies receive on average three enquiries a week per branch (there are 28 branches of Tinies nationwide) for a one-day temporary nanny.

"This has certainly increased this week as we are getting at least four or five enquiries per branch, overall I would say at least a 30% rise nationally.

"However, closer to the date, or more likely on Wednesday itself we will get these enquires confirmed as parents are waiting in the hope the strike will be called off at the last minute."

Teachers are also likely to find they have less support than in the summer, when three teaching unions, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the University and College Union (UCU) staged a one-day walkout over pensions.

Margaret Morrissey of campaign group Parents Outloud said that a lot of parents are "extremely cross".

"There's a sort of sympathy with the teachers to an extent, but what everyone's got to remember is that there are significant numbers of parents who have had their jobs taken away in the cuts and pensions destroyed," she said.

"Much as they have respect for the teachers and the good work they do, I think they feel that in this time of crisis, everyone's got to take some share of the problem."

She added: "I think there's less support now than in the summer. More people seem to be affected by the cuts now and are beginning to realise what a struggle life is going to be."

Mrs Morrissey said that the strike did not set a good example to others, and warned schools against complaining in future if a parent takes a child out of school for family reasons, such as a holiday.

"If having a day off for a strike is not going to affect children's education, neither is it when a parent takes them off for a couple of days," she said.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "These strikes are unnecessary and unfair.

"Millions of parents will face the inconvenience and financial cost of finding childcare at short notice. And pupils' education will suffer too.

"It is very disappointing that the union leaders are still planning this strike when there is an offer on the table that ensures teachers still receive one of the best pensions available and which is better than most people in the private sector receive."

PA

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