The Daily Telegraph

Rising childcare costs ‘forcing women to give up on their careers’

- By Louisa Clarence-smith education editor

CHILDCARE costs are forcing women to sacrifice their careers to raise children, the president of the Girls’ School Associatio­n has said.

Marina Gardiner Legge said that women’s freedom to choose between work and looking after children has been eroded after “having fought so long, and so hard, to have a choice”.

She added: “The choice of returning to work with the rising cost of childcare is really difficult as salaries, especially part-time, as well as the availabili­ty of childcare options, means that it is more difficult to work and cover childcare costs too. The balance of the choice of work and bringing up children is, in effect, being eroded.” Ms Gardiner Legge, who is head of Oxford High School, will highlight childcare costs and availabili­ty as one of the barriers facing girls and young women in 2023 when she addresses more than 150 leaders of independen­t and state-run girls’ schools at the Girls’ School Associatio­n’s annual conference today.

She will also use her speech to warn of the “motherhood pay gap”, “toxic workplaces”, “misogyny” and “sexual harassment”.

The cost of placing a one-year-old in full-time care costs about £14,000 a year, according to analysis by the charity Coram Family and Childcare.

Earlier this month, research by the Fawcett Society found that about 250,000 mothers with young children had left their jobs over childcare pressures. Its survey of working parents of pre-school children found that one in 10 mothers had handed in their notice, while more than two-fifths had turned down a promotion or career developmen­t opportunit­y because they worried it would not fit in with childcare arrangemen­ts.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced a £4billion plan to expand free childcare.

The plan to make 30 hours of free weekly childcare available to working parents of children under five by September 2025 is designed to help more people into work.

Currently the 30-hour funded places are only available to three and fouryear-olds in working families. However, there are concerns about a shortage of nursery places and childminde­rs.

There were 1.26 million childcare and early years places in England in August 2023, down by 17,800 on the previous year. Over the same period, the number of childcare and early years providers fell by 3,320 to 62,300, Ofsted statistics show.

Miriam Cates, a Tory MP, has called for an improvemen­t in education about fertility in response to the UK’S declining birth rate.

Ms Gardiner Legge said she did not think young women should be told to have more babies. She said: “I don’t think we should tell young women what to do at all.

“I think we should give them the tools in order to lead illuminati­ng lives

‘The balance of the choice of work and bringing up children is, in effect, being eroded’ ‘Our world desperatel­y needs the voices and presence of women in every sphere’

to inspire the futures of everybody else.”

Ms Gardiner Legge will tell school leaders at the conference in Cirenceste­r in the Cotswolds: “Our world desperatel­y needs the voices and presence of women in every sphere. We do not need more people happy with the status quo – we need the power of the activist – the modern suffragett­e.”

The Department for Education said: “We are rolling out the largest expansion in free childcare in England’s history, saving hard-working families up to £6,500 a year.

“Our increased offer will be rolled out in stages ahead of September 2025 to give childminde­rs and nurseries time to prepare and ensure there are enough places to meet demand.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom