A number of key ideas have underpinned the editorial line taken by the Webmag over the last 100 issues since we started in January 2000.
The Importance of Children and Young People
This principle is something which every politician would sign up to; after all, one of the images of the campaigning politician is the kissing of babies to show that they are sensitive family-friendly human beings. When it comes to hard-nosed decisions, though, considerations of the needs of children and young people seem at times to melt away.
However, we have readily acknowledged that this UK Government has invested more in children and young people than any other in history, and we applaud this. It has also introduced more fundamental changes of system than any Government since 1971, and its departmental re-organisations with a Minister for Children, and the Department responsible for education being named Department for Children, Schools and Families indicates a more strategic approach than ever before.
In society as a whole there is still a long way to go before a balanced view of children is achieved, with the current sentimentalisation of little children and the demonisation of teenagers. At least, children now have a champion in Sir Al Aynsley Green, and he does not appear to be letting his weak remit as Commissioner get in the way of speaking out.
Emphasising the importance of children and young people is a campaign which will probably still be running when we reach Issue 200, and if it is necessary, we shall still be arguing the cause.
A Single Profession and Social Pedagogy
It has been our view that child care has been seriously weakened in this country because of the splintered nature of the profession. Workers see themselves as specialists first (such as nannies, residential workers or youth workers) and members of the wider profession second – unlike other professions, where people specialise within the overall profession with which they identify.
Social pedagogy now offers the opportunity to draw all child care workers together under one banner, to develop a common identity and to speak with a louder voice on behalf of the profession, the services and children and young people.
We have waved this flag since the start, and are delighted to see the current growth of interest in social pedagogy. We shall continue to support this cause.
You may have forgotten the Momentum campaign, which we backed strongly. The outcome was the establishment of the National Centre for Excellence in Child Care, which is now in full swing and having a real impact under Jonathan Stanley’s lead, as the report on social pedagogy elsewhere in this issue indicates.
It was Adrian Ward who suggested the title Momentum for the campaign, in the hope that the name would encourage forward movement. Unhappily the campaign faltered, but then picked up again; the case was made; the Government accepted the case; the NCB was picked as the host for NCERCC – all good decisions, and the battle is now over.
The need for the establishment of NCERCC was in part because of the undervaluing of residential child care over recent decades. The creation of NCERCC is only one stage in the battle to have it given its proper status as a placement of choice, as a setting which can have a really positive impact on the lives of children, and one where the right values and skills are necessary.
The Webmag has published regular columns and a host of one-off articles in support of this cause, and will continue to do so.
We argued for the registration of child care workers. Now that the GSCC and its counterparts in other countries are under way, this should be a dead issue, but we are appalled that the GSCC is dragging its feet, and we may need to revive the cause.
Throughout the last eight years we have carried regular items about child care services in other countries, articles by authors from other countries and reports of international conferences and congresses (especially FICE). Fundamentally we believe that Britain is too insular, and that it has a lot to learn from other countries, as have individual professionals.
It should be noted, though, that the readership is international, and we have tried in part to address ourselves to worldwide childcare issues, and to offering people outside Britain a window on British childcare. All the way round, it is dialogue that we wish to encourage.
The Webmag has been very aware of our heritage in child care, and we believe that there is widespread failure in this country to learn from the past and appreciate the achievements of our predecessors. (How many great British child care workers can you name?)
We have therefore carried a number of articles to celebrate the lives and thinking of the great child care workers, and we have supported the establishment of the Child Care History Network.
This is a campaign that should have been over years ago, and it is to the shame of politicians that there still has to be a pressure group, Children are Unbeatable, to keep on saying in various ways that smacking should be made unacceptable.
What would politicians who support smacking think if they were smacked by people much larger than them because the larger people did not like what they were doing? They would be arguing for protection and for the prosecution of the smackers. Yet they are quite happy to agree to big people hitting little people in the case of children. It really is time this matter was resolved, and that the professionals’ views were adopted.
Finally, not so much a policy as an approach, we have tried to be positive, to encourage good practice, and to share information about model projects and approaches. We have whinged or warned at times, and some of our contributors have made sharp criticisms in their contributions, but overall we have tried to be positive.
Children and young people need a positive workforce, committed and enthusiastic, if they are to be helped to enjoy their lives as children, to develop and mature to responsible adulthood, and to overcome the problems that many of them suffer. It is our view that an excessive emphasis on competencies in NVQ training has been at the expense of re-inforcing the values that motivate the workforce.
In our very first Editorial in January 2000 we emphasised the use of the Webmag as a Forum for ideas. We saw child care as a field where workers needed to be creative, imaginative and communicative, sharing their ideas. We still do. If we can help child care workers to be positive and to share ideas, it will be worth publishing the Webmag.