Editor's view - Can we do it like Denmark?

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I sometimes wonder if Denmark ever tires of the constant flow of UK early years professionals and politicians who stream into the country to marvel at its high-quality, universal, affordable childcare.

If so, Danish representatives visiting London last month were very gracious about it.

I attended a roundtable run by the Reform think-tank at which Denmark's minister for children and education, Christine Antorini, spoke about Danish daycare - its absolute centrality to the labour market and the presumption of gender quality there.

Driven by economic factors and the need to have women in the workforce, but underpinned by the desire to promote children's well-being, development and learning, and a desire to eradicate deprivation, the Danish system sounds Nirvana indeed.

Municipalities have a legal obligation to provide childcare for all, with highly-trained staff, and for which parents pay a maximum of 25 per cent of the costs. There is little regulation, but great pressure to provide high-quality care, so that the government is now investing £59 million to improve staff:child ratios.

Ms Antorini was asked what she thought of the UK system. Her expression alone spoke volumes, but she did say, 'it would be very difficult to be a woman here!'

Labour's shadow work and pensions minister Liam Byrne, who is on the party's childcare commission, was there, fresh from Copenhagen and considering what lessons we can learn.

It is not simple to replicate, however, or even to move towards this with just political will. The Danes expect to pay very high taxes, and equality and community are a given. Our whole society would need a radical shift in attitude which is hard to imagine.

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