Long days at nursery or with childminders ‘raising a generation of school tearaways’

  • Research says that bad behaviour is linked to hours spent without parents
  • Jonas Himmelstrand is presenting his report to MPs this week

By Steve Doughty

PUBLISHED: 00:21 GMT, 11 March 2013

Long hours in nurseries or with childminders lead to mental health problems and difficulties at school for children, a leading expert claimed yesterday.

According to researcher Jonas Himmelstrand, falling educational standards and a wave of disorder and bullying in schools are directly connected to state subsidies for daycare.

His report is to be presented to MPs this week by pressure group Mothers at Home Matter, which is calling on politicians to cut childcare subsidies and instead ease the bias in the tax and benefit system against those who stay at home to bring up their children.

Mothers are in the awkward position of being encouraged to go out to work but also told to spend enough time with their childrenQuandary: Mothers are in the awkward position of being encouraged to go out to work but also told to spend enough time with their children

The analysis looked at the situation in Mr Himmelstrand’s homeland of Sweden where more than nine out of ten children spend their early years in nurseries.

He said: ‘Swedish schools have among the highest truancy, the greatest classroom disorder, the most damage to property and the most offensive language of all comparable nations. I would urge policy makers in the UK to rethink their approach to childcare.

‘Emulating the Swedish approach, where both the staff-to-child ratio and the number of hours children spend in day care are both increasing, is not the answer and is actually damaging to your children’s future.’

Mr Himmelstrand is a controversial figure in Sweden. He now lives outside the country because of what he calls state persecution of his family because of his decision to educate his children at home.

He said: ‘The early exposure of large groups of peers leads to peer-orientation, which has detrimental results on psychological maturation, learning and the transference of culture between generations. It is at the root of bullying, teenage gangs, promiscuity and the flat-lining of culture.’

The fresh claims come as ministers here redouble efforts to encourage British mothers to go out to work.

A majority of mothers of toddlers now take jobs and use nurseries, childminders, nannies or friends or relatives to look after their children while they work.

Childcare Minister Elizabeth Truss has said it is ‘vital’ for mothers to work and is planning changes to childcare regulations to allow fewer staff to look after more pre-school children.

Families with just one working parent have faced increasing risks of poverty in recent years.

Researcher Jonas Himmelstrand linked disorder, truancy and low educational standards to parents not spending enough time with their childrenChildcare controversy: Researcher Jonas Himmelstrand linked disorder, truancy and low educational standards to parents not spending enough time with their children

The non-working parent gets no help from the tax credit system which subsidises single parents, and the income tax system, unlike those in most of the developed world, gives no extra help to two-parent families or workers with family responsibilities.

David Cameron has yet to make good his 2010 election manifesto promise to give a tax break to married couples.

A number of research projects over the past two decades have suggested young children who spend long hours in daycare can suffer in later years in performance at school.

The Himmelstrand findings said psychological problems among Swedish schoolgirls have tripled since the 1980s; Swedish schools, which 30 years ago were among the best in the world, now produce average results and are below average for maths; and that Swedish schools now have among the worst discipline problems in Europe.

Marie Peacock, of Mothers at Home Matter, said: ‘We urge British policymakers not to try to imitate a Scandinavian system that is yielding negative results.

‘The public debate focuses on the supposed advantages of childcare, but there is no parallel discussion in terms of the value of mothers.’

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