Preschool pickup pressure ‘hampers careers’: Swedish union

Preschool pickup pressure 'hampers careers': Swedish union
Many parents feel pressured to collect their children early from preschool, or dagis, because 'everyone else picks up early', according to a report from the Swedish Municipal Workers’ Union (Kommunal).

The union – Sweden’s largest with over 500,000 members – claims that 30 percent of its members with children in preschool cannot work full time because of the schools’ limited opening hours, while 67 percent have never been consulted by the pre-school about suitable opening hours.

Half of the parents surveyed say they feel pressured to collect their children from preschool earlier than they would have done otherwise. One in four parents say that they feel they have to pick up their children by 4pm at the latest. Over 50 percent feel they must collect their children before 4.30pm.

The most common reason, given by almost every other parent, is they feel guilty when other children are collected earlier. Otherwise, parents say the preschool’s opening hours forces them to pick up their children early, or that they are not comfortable with the quality of childcare.

Only 24 percent of parents say that they come earlier because their children do not enjoy long days.

Some 82 percent of all 1-5 year olds in Sweden attend preschool. But since the beginning of the 1990s the child-to-staff ratio has increased significantly, from 4.4 children per staff member twenty years ago to 5.3 today.

“The norm of collecting early is problematical, because it hinders parents from working full time and managing their daily lives,” wrote Kommunal in its commentary.

Standard preschool opening hours are poorly adapted to the hours Kommunal’s members work, concluded the report. Most preschools open between 6am and 7am, but around one in five preschools do not open until after 7am. The pattern is the same at the other end of the day. While the majority of preschools close between 5.30pm and 6pm, only one in five stays open beyond 6pm.

The report also found that mothers are still taking responsibility for collecting their children from preschool. In over 50 percent of families the mother picks up the children ‘always or almost always’. Around 24% of fathers ‘rarely or never’ collect their children.

The survey, which was carried out by Novus Opinion, was based on 843 interviews.

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