Unveiling plans for giving disadvantaged children a better start in life
This includes creating 1,800 free nursery places for two-year-olds from lower income families and strengthening the range of early years services provided in the borough’s least well-off neighbourhoods.
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.
Cabinet member for children’s services Cllr Kathy Tracey, said:
“This is about identifying vulnerable children very early in their lives and targeting services to give them the best possible support before they start school. It also aims to support parents who need help getting back into employment.”
Cllr Tracey has also reassured parents who have expressed concerns about changes to local one o’ clock clubs - some which will be used to provide these extra nursery places.
The council is exploring ways of maintaining these drop-in sessions at some of the one o’clock clubs when they are not being used to offer nursery places. It is also looking to make sessions available at one o’clock clubs on Saturdays for the first time.
Parents who use the drop-in and play services at these one o’clock clubs will also be able to attend similar stay and play sessions at the 14 council-run children’s centres and also at various playgroups and children’s centres run by Wandsworth’s voluntary sector providers.
As well as using one o’clock clubs and children’s centres, the 1,800 new childcare places will also be provided at independent nurseries and through registered childminders, ensuring a wide range of options to suit parents’ needs.
This expansion in early years education is part of a £5.1m programme that also includes £800,000 to fund improvements and upgrades to buildings to ensure they meet the highest standards for nursery accommodation.
Cllr Tracey said: “Providing so many nursery places this quickly is a real challenge for the town hall and it means that we have had to look at making changes to our network of one o’clock clubs. These are the only suitable Ofsted-approved buildings we have that can be used to provide these important new childcare services.
“These changes mean that none of the one o’clock buildings will be closing, but they will be offering different and more targeted services to the borough’s most needy families. We do however hugely value the work carried out at the one o’clock clubs and we fully recognise what a vital and important service they provide to mums and dads.
“That is why we are looking to continue providing ‘stay and play’ sessions at the one o’clock clubs when they are not being used to provide these extra nursery places and why we are exploring options to open them on Saturdays for the first time so that working parents can visit them and enjoy what they have to offer.
“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. Despite the tough financial climate, this represents a major investment in the education and development of this generation of children, as well as a real leg-up for working parents.
“These changes allow us to meet the Government’s requirements to expand nursery and childcare provision for those that need our help the most - and at the same time we are aiming to meet the demands from local parents who value our one o’clock clubs and want to continue using these valued family services.”
Councillors on the children’s services scrutiny committee will discuss the proposals at their meeting on February 12.
February 6, 2013