Maybe I’ve become complacent over the years? Taking people for granted perhaps? It’s just I read in The Guardian last week that parents are – wait for it – voluntarily contributing to the running of a Hackney nursery to keep down childcare fees. It looks like it’s popular with parents because the providers are usually not-for-profit and so there are no fat cats making a huge profit. It’s called the “co-production model of childcare” and I’m feeling kinda cool and happening now coz we’ve been all over this for years but we call it working in partnership with parents. Right around the time we first realised that with ever-rising costs we might have to increase our fees to maintain our provision without compromising on quality. This was a tough one because we knew that many of our parents were already struggling with fees. So what could we do?

Well, we put it to our parents. Mind-blowing huh? And this is what happened. We get weekly donations of paper destined for the shredder to draw and paint on. Old fences and posts to make our own mud kitchens, workbenches and other outdoor equipment (one parent has even made this stuff for us and delivered it too!) Unwanted school furniture to up-cycle and tins of paint to up-cycle it with. Unwanted cooking and baking utensils. Old hairdressing equipment and DIY tools (brilliant for role play). We get batches of boxes and tubes and lids and pots for junk modelling every other week. Loose parts like cotton reels, balls of wool and fabric scraps from the local knitting shop and dressmakers. (We’ve even been given yards of fabrics that we’ve used for drawstring storage bags, capes and tents). Fir cones, pebbles, twigs and shells most Mondays (they have the loveliest weekends our kids…) Bamboo canes, netting and pots and vegetables from allotments. We even have parents we can depend on to provide extra pairs of hands and eyes for outings.

(much of what you see here has been donated by parents)

Sadly though, some within the private sector seem to be concerned that the use of “unqualified parents, however enthusiastic, may dilute the quality of provision”. And yes, I guess potentially it may if we were actually substituting qualified and experienced staff with well-meaning parents with a bit of spare time on their hands but not when they’re generously and selflessly giving up their time and skills to enhance our provision and children’s experiences beyond measure surely?

So, a big shout out to parents everywhere: the office workers, joiners, engineers, teachers, hairdressers, cleaners, home-makers or whatever else you do. Thank you very, very much for helping us to help you to help your kids.