Questions have been raised over the wisdom of the British government's obsession with getting mothers back into the workplace after two new reports found that nursery education can damage young children and lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour and aggression.
According to today's Evening Standard:
The British study raised serious doubts about the benefits of nursery care. Accusing the Government of operating a "short-sighted policy", it said: "It's easier for an infant to catch up on cognitive skills later on, but they can't catch up on insecure attachment."
It suggested nursery staff were no substitute for motherhood, saying they were "more detached" and "less sensitive and responsive. In a strong signal that the Government is taking the issue seriously, ministers are preparing a radical overhaul of maternity leave to make it easier for new mothers to care for infants at home.
As a result, the Standard says, Education Secretary Charles Clarke will announce plans to explore the options for increasing statutory paid leave from the current provision of 26 weeks, possibly to as much as 52 weeks, an idea floated by the children's minister, Margaret Hodge only weeks ago.
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The plans will delight parents and family groups, who have waged a campaign for more state support for new mothers. But the proposal is opposed by business groups who fear it will have a devastating impact on small companies.