Million Pound Proposals For New Nursery Places

Council considers investing for disadvantaged children

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Councillors have been asked to endorse proposals to invest more than £1m in providing better nursery facilities for disadvantaged children in the borough.

They have also been given an update on the work that's been carried out so far in ensuring that stay and play services continue to be offered at the borough's one o'clock centres.

The aim is for these buildings to offer nursery places in the mornings, but offer drop-in stay and play sessions for parents
and children under five at other times of the day.

The council has been set an ambitious Government target of providing 1,800 free nursery places for two-years-olds from lower income families by September 2014.

Many of these places can be delivered in existing nurseries and other Ofsted approved buildings, but in order to deliver so many additional new places the town hall is using other council-owned premises, including five one o'clock centres.

Now £1m is set to be spent on bringing these and other council buildings earmarked as nurseries up to standard.

This includes a £370,000 spend on a new children's centre in King George's Park which will offer a full range of services for younger children every day of the week, including drop-in stay and play.

At the Bolingbroke, Windmill, Coronation Gardens, Triangle and York Gardens one o'clock centres, these would be used to provide free nursery places in the mornings and play and stay services in the afternoons - and potentially also at weekends for the first time.

Modest charges may be incurred by parents accessing stay and play services at some of the centres, but those at King George's Park and York Gardens will remain free of charge, as will the drop-in stay and play services at the borough's 14 other council-run children's centres. They are also likely to remain open throughout the school holidays.

Meanwhile the one o'clock centre at Battersea Park is to be transformed into a child and family friendly café with an outdoor play area for toddlers, to complement the recent refurbishment and modernisation of the adjacent children's playground.

Children's services spokesman Cllr Kathy Tracey said: "We are investing £1m in making sure these new nursery places are provided in really good quality settings. It is important that the two-year-olds who will be benefiting from this massive expansion in early years education can enjoy the very best facilities and equipment.

"Creating an extra 1,800 places in little over 18 months has been a major challenge and has meant we have had to explore changes to the way some council buildings operate, especially the one o'clock centres.

"However, I'm delighted to say that we are well on course to not only meet our nursery places target but to have also ensured that the flexibility is in place so that the very popular drop-in stay and play services can continue to be offered at one o'clock centres.

"We are working closely with nursery providers and voluntary groups to ensure that for a small fee, parents can still access these sessions at a range of times throughout the working day and, in some cases, make them available on Saturdays too for the very first time.

"The expansion in nursery and childcare places means many more two-years-olds will be able to attend a nursery setting for 15 hours a week, which will benefit their educational and social development.

"The aim is to identify vulnerable children very early in their lives and target services to give them the best possible support before they start school. It also aims to support parents who need help to get back into employment.

"This expansion in early years education is part of a £5m investment in the education and development of this generation of children."

A total of 894 extra nursery places will be available from September this year with another 894 to be provided in September 2014. These are aimed at families whose children qualify for free school meals.

June 21, 2013