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I read, with increasing unease, the news that the Work and Pensionssecretary Iain Duncan Smith 'wants to see more childcare servicesoffered by the hour'.

Against the backdrop of increasing take-up of places, he has stated,'maybe it is time for many more childcare providers to actually startlooking at providing childcare by the hour rather than by theblock'.

Childcare by the hour? I fundamentally believe that the premise on whichthis is based is flawed. It would appear that these thoughts areinformed solely on perceiving childcare as a means of freeing up parentsto work, rather than the importance of high-quality early learning.While the two are not incompatible, appropriate conditions to enable thelatter should remain paramount.

I find it difficult to imagine how the kind of attachment and positiverelationships we constantly strive for with our children (in their ownright, and as predispositions for learning) would be possible increche-style models.

'Selling' childcare by the hour would result in poor experiences forchildren, lack of stability for staff, and a disaster for organisationalsustainability.

This proposal flies in the face of many of the sentiments of theFamilies in the Foundation Years document, including two of theGovernment's key priorities - first, to improve the quality of provisionand second, to ensure the sector's continued vibrancy andsustainability.

In addition, I would suggest that Mr Duncan Smith looks at childcarecosts in terms of the organisational burden on providers, includingbusiness rates and VAT. Addressing these issues would, in turn, reducethe costs of childcare to parents without compromising quality.

Nathan Archer, development manager, Lincolnshire Montessori

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I am the owner of a small, private day nursery established in 2002. I amalso a student in the final year of my BA in Early Years. Earlier thisyear I attended an NHS-sponsored training event on children'snutritional needs for early years practitioners. It was very informativeand inspired me to focus on the subject for my university researchproposal.

In studying for it I became very aware of the focus on healthy eating inschools and all the work that had been achieved nationally for childrenover the age of five.

There was very little for children within the Early Years Foundationstage, so I was delighted to read about the Early Years Advisory Paneland their report in 2010. I wondered what exciting developments wouldfollow.

On the new Foundation Years website I was excited to read that there wasa new 'eat better, start better' programme. However, I am feelingdisappointed and deflated having accessed the information on the SchoolFood Trust website. There is nothing that mentions early yearsprovision. There are pages for schools, parents and partners, but notearly years practitioners. Surely we need a page!

I am currently preparing a seminar paper concerned with the relationshipbetween nutrition and children's learning and development, the barriersto providing suitable balanced meals in a full day care setting and alsorecent initiatives for children's nutrition and the lack of focus onages 0-5 years in childcare environments.

I am very keen to promote the importance of healthy, balanced meals andsnacks for children, and not just because of the drive to preventobesity, but holistically, to benefit children's daily lives, health,learning and development. Please, can early years practitioners beconsidered as relevant and worthwhile partners in promoting the healthand wellbeing of the children in our care?

Liz Nunn, Dizzy's Day Nursery, Haverhill, Suffolk

- See our news story on p6 about the School Food Trust's progress onearly years guidelines


Stability, please. Professor Cathy Nutbrown's qualifications review andDame Clare Tickell's EYFS initiative are both key in shapingimprovement, change and progress. But we do need to get on with it.

Naturally, it's important to make the right adjustments, and that meanswe need time to think about it. It's also vital that responses areco-ordinated with other thinking - parents, early intervention, agraduate-led workforce, more reflective practice, funding, benefits...

Setting work means you need to have your wits about you and be 'on form'- does all this stuff going on in the background not make people edgyand uncertain?

Andrew Sanders, lecturer, University of Derby

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