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New Children's Centres


Chill
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This is going to be a bit of a saga but I do need to get it off my chest. I run a private nursery school registered for 52 children a session and I have up to 139 childrn on the register with a long waiting list. We offer session or full days (9.00 to 3.00) and draw form a large catchment area so do not link to any particular school. We get fantastic feedback form parents and our reputation spreads by word of mouth and we hardly ever need to advertise. Please do not think I am complacent about our setting but I want to put in context my concerns.

 

The sure start 10 year strategy does not seem to take account of premises like ours and despite our success I feel concerned for our future. Our development worker also feels that we will fall between all camps!

 

We have just had a wonderful end of term and I was feeling content with a job well done for children, parents and staff. Today I opened a newsletter from our county and the anxiety returned. Under a heading of 'Children's Centres' the future was clearly mapped out. I quote " ...in the main these children's centres should be deeloped from existinf maintained private or community provision" - sounds good but then "all centres wil have to provide a minimum range of services including: the centre is open to a minimum of 5 days a week, 10 hours a day, 48 weeks a year".

 

This confirms my fears that the days of the sessional provider are numbered despite many parents preferring this type of provision. Diversity of provision is not being valued and parental choice is being taken away from them. My sort of setting, despite being very successful, very popular and well respected within the local community will not be able to survive the new requirements. I would face closure or a complete change of ethos and philosophy and I feel something valuable would be lost, apart from the loss of all staff due to family unfriendly hours.

 

Am I the only one to feel threatened by children's centres and devastated by the future of child care?

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Hi Chill

I too had worried about what would happen with childrens centres but have had my fears allayed a little recently. You are right in that local authorities should look at existing provision and there is still a place for sessional groups. There is not enough money to build all the centres from scratch or even to develop complete new centres on existing sites. So what many areas will have to do is have the main building as the "hub" with "satellite" provision signposted. The hub building could be a health centre, an LEA nursery, or any existing provision that is interested. They then signpost the other facilities on offer.

We were hoping to become a childrens centre as a satellite to a local inclusive nursery but they pulled out at the last minute. So we don't actually have a proposed centre for our area for the forseeable future.

You can express an interest to become part of a childrens centre offering the hours you already do-the idea is that there is a whole host of facilities for parents to choose from. You need to be proactive and get involved with what your local authority are doing.

I hope this helps.

Linda

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Hi

 

At a recent funding roadshow hosted by Sure Start we were told that there would be a children's centre in every community - Sure Start explained further that there would be 1 centre to say every 800 children under 5 so that would probably mean in a town near us rather than in our village ie not in every village/town.

 

Deb

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Hi Chill,

 

Yours fears are not unfounded, however I agree with Linda, local Authorities have had a lot of bad press lately because they have previously not consulted with all sectors.

I don't know if you are a member of PLA or NDNA (National Day Nurserys Association)but they are both fully supportive of the private sector with this issue.

The NDNA have lobbied government on this issue and I do believe they have a specific office which deals with this. Even if you are not a member it may be worth contacting them, I do recall reading in Nursery World that the NDA are trying to gather data evidence of how many private and voluntary sectors are affected by the growth of Children's Centres.

 

Again as Linda said, be "proactive" with your local authority, their definition of "Consultation" is writing you a letter, and not much more. Find out when planning meetings are held, find out the names of all the people involved, who are your local planning officers for early years?

 

Good luck.

 

I believe in the ethos of Childrens Centre's to a degree, to have a one stop shop for parents, but I don't necessarily think this is suitable for all communities. I do believe that the people who are best to be involved in them are the ones who are known and trusted by local families, ie: all the preschool, day nursery practitioners who have worked in the community for the last few decades not someone who is there because they have a teaching qualification or early years degree, but don't know the people they are there to provide a service for. ( no offence to teachers etc)

Families who are in need of support are the most reluctant to go to "centre" which they feel insecure with, better who you know and who knows you. (If you know what I mean)

 

Keep us informed how things progress, and stand up for your principles and ethos, these are what make us valuable.

 

Peggy

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Hi Chill,

 

Yours fears are not unfounded, however I agree with Linda, local Authorities have had a lot of bad press lately because they have previously not consulted with all sectors. 

I don't know if you are a member of PLA or NDNA (National Day Nurserys Association)but they are both fully supportive of the private sector with this issue.

The NDNA have lobbied government on this issue and I do believe they have a specific office which deals with this. Even if you are not a member it may be worth contacting them, I do recall reading in Nursery World that the NDA are trying to gather data evidence of how many private and voluntary sectors are affected by the growth of Children's Centres.

 

Again as Linda said, be "proactive" with your local authority, their definition of "Consultation" is writing you a letter, and not much more. Find out when planning meetings are held, find out the names of all the people involved, who are your local planning officers for early years?

 

Good luck.

 

I believe in the ethos of Childrens Centre's to a degree, to have a one stop shop for parents, but I don't necessarily think this is suitable for all communities. I do believe that the people who are best to be involved in them are the ones who are known and trusted by local families, ie: all the preschool, day nursery practitioners who have worked in the community for the last few decades not someone who is there because they have a teaching qualification or early years degree, but don't know the people they are there to provide a service for. ( no offence to teachers etc)

Families who are in need of support are the most reluctant to go to "centre" which they feel insecure with, better who you know and who knows you. (If you know what I mean)

 

Keep us informed how things progress, and stand up for your principles and ethos, these are what make us valuable.

 

Peggy

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Thank you Peggy I think we all need to watch this space. Absolutely Children's Centres have a valuable place as an addition, not replacement, to existing provision. So much wonderful work has been done in pre-school that I feel now there is a danger of the baby being thrown out with the bathwater and us all being the victims of policy which is more politically than socially motivated. There are so many changes in the offing it is hard to have a clear picture of the future and it is this which is unsettling. Our PLA worker is equally concerned as she sees the Childrens Centres expanding. There are already many pre-school places unfilled. Many will not survive - espoecially as I understand from Nursery Manager that some Children's Centre places are heavily subsidised.

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There are a lot of good examples of the private sector working in partnership with childrens centres but I do believe this is because the owners have been pro-active. I am also a member of PLA and have a very development worker, but she is very busy with a huge workload of other things as well as local development such as mentoring QA schemes etc. She may miss a crucial meeting ( not her fault) Find out as much as you can yourself about how the decision making process is planned for your area. Get your name known, let people know you want to be fully involved in all the meetings etc. Let everyone know what a good service you offer, in the new year do some questionairres with parents asking them why they have chosen your setting over others, have useable evidence that you are meeting the community needs, that you know what other services parents need and how you can meet these in the future or which areas you would need other agency involvement in. In other words, do the same ( if not better) survey of needs that the local authority should be doing, see if your responses are the same as theirs. Then if push comes to shove you will have ACTUAL evidence and not just anecdotal evidence of what parents and families in your area really need, want and most importantly will use.

 

Peggy

Social versus political agenda's is everyones headache, I think.

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