ECM: Brave New World
- but they appear to have equal status to the 'third sector' and are placed further away from the child than:
- Maternity and Primary Health;
- Children's Centres;
- Extended Schools;
- Integrated Youth Services;
- Lead Professionals;
- Specialist Services;
- Multi-agency Locality Teams;
- The Team Around the Child;
- The Common Assessment Framework [opens pdf]; and
When ECM is in place and working properly, every two year old will attend a Children's Centre while both her parents are in full-time employment. There, she will be trained to comply with institutional order: eating, playing, learning and communication according to the programme.
She will be monitored for signs of oppositional behaviour and this will be dealt with accordingly. Her family history and circumstances will be on file and referenced when appropriate. She will not be the treasured, special baby of her biological group: she will be one of a class of many other same-aged children. Her health will be screened and she will be medicated and vaccinated at the Centre also.
The Centre will not be such a strange place to her, because she will have been regularly visiting it since her birth with her parent or other carer. She will know it as the place where she is weighed, checked and measured, where she has to queue and wait and do what the staff members tell her to do. She will see her parent or other carer do what the staff members tell them to do and so learn that this is the way to behave.
In due course, she will know this as the place where she is left by her parent or other carer: at first for short periods and then for longer ones. She may even have been left there every day since she was a tiny baby.
She will try to form emotional attachments with the adults at the centre, but this will be difficult because she is only one of a group and the staff members will not be kin to her and anyway they will disappear forever, periodically, and be replaced by other ones. If she is lonely, sad, sick or frightened they will not be allowed to cuddle her: only to try to distract her when she cries. She will soon learn to swallow her bad feelings and not to cry.
Her behaviour will be monitored according to a strict template: if she hits out too often, she will be referred for behavioural modification. If she clings to her parent or other carer too resolutely when they're leaving in the mornings, the whole family may be referred and her home, parent or other carer be replaced for different ones. This will teach her not to cling, cry or form too close attachments. It will teach her that nobody is there for her permanently, all the time. Only the System.
Her learning will be monitored and she will be given age-appropriate toys, books and activities, regardless of what she might feel like doing. Stories will be read to the whole group, not just her. There will be no beloved, familiar giant knee to clamber onto: no control over when to turn the page or how to say the words. No finger stabbing at favourite pictures. She must be passive, quiet, obedient.
It's likely that she will take all of her meals at the Children's Centre, unless she is lucky enough to live close-by, with her parent or other carer working close by as well. It might be seven in the evening before she gets home. Just time for a bath, teeth cleaned, and bed. First thing the next morning she'll be woken, dressed and taken to the Centre again. She will hardly ever be at home in her waking hours.
Adaptable as she is, she will learn to accept all of this. She will not know personal power, spontaneity or maternal attachment and so will never be all she can be, but she won't know this either - she will only know the routine, conformity and the numb, not-feeling. So school, when the time comes, won't be a shock to her: it will just be more of the same. By this time, she will sit quietly and carry out tasks when told to do so. She will not dare to deviate: she will see what happens to those who do. They disappear and might or might not return later, somehow subdued. Strange, glassy-eyed and unresponsive, their old, spirited selves never to return.
Again, she will take all of her meals there and attend from 8am until 6pm. When she gets slightly older, there will be evening activities at the Centre or Extended School (which might well be the same place) so that she continues to spend the vast majority of her waking hours there but the only absolutely definite thing to have stayed with her throughout the whole process as staff members came and went and teachers were changed, will be her file. This she will never see, but she will have a growing awareness of its existence because it will be referred to from time to time and she will see it being consulted and notes made upon it.
The file will be used to help map her career and decide her life choices. Because when the time comes, she will not know what she wants to do with her life - but then, she never did. She was never asked. The concept of wanting to do something is by now completely alien to her: she has no connection to the part of her brain that might still be able to think along those lines and can't remember ever having one. So it's good that the file is there to help to choose a subject for her to study at college. At twenty-two with a degree, she will be ready to slot into a useful role in the System. This will probably be in a new town and connected to a new Centre, but it will feel like home because they will all look the same anyway.
But this will not happen to every child. Some brave parents will find ways to resist the process: a growing number, as it happens. They will refuse to give their children up to the System.
What will happen to them?
I don't know.