Cuts threaten children’s centres
NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates spent a day touring two children’s centres in Birmingham that could face significant funding cutbacks from the Coalition Government.
Ms Keates visited Washwood Heath Nursery where she joined in carnival activities that celebrated Black History Month before a trip to nearby Brearley and Teviot centre in Newtown, which provide extensive support to children and their families from birth to the latter stages of their early years.
She used the day to inform her discussions with Secretary of State Michael Gove in the coming months following the Comprehensive Spending Review in which a 60% reduction in the capital budget was announced.
The centres comprise a large number of ethnic minority children in an area known for social deprivation. Among the facilities provided are ante-natal classes, father support groups and breakfast clubs.
The Brearley centre has a strong emphasis on using the outdoors as a tool for learning – a concept often known as ‘reggio’ – where the environment is considered a ‘third teacher’. Staff at Brearley said that a loss of personnel would change the centre’s way of working.
Val Daniel, Head of Washwood Heath Nursery, said that community cohesion was vital to promoting hope among parents and children and that maintaining quality with less contact time and single-formula funding is a major challenge.
Outlining her nursery’s approach, she remarked: “We don’t take away parents’ responsibility. We coach them rather than removing their ownership. There is a real mix of children. Money has nothing to do with social need.”
Centres such as Brearley and Teviot place a critical reliance on adequate staffing levels and the threat posed by the cuts is causing huge concern.
With many area-based grants being abolished, Ms Keates warned about the dangers of marketisation and cuts to local authority budgets.
Ms Keates said: “The facilities at children's centres such as Brearley-Teviot are indispensable to families in under-privileged communities. They offer a real safety net in providing services such as breakfast clubs and parental support classes. In order to maintain adequate staffing levels and sufficient resources, it is vital that the Coalition Government think twice before cutting funding to these centres.”
To inform and educate parents and public about the realities of the Coalition Government’s plans for state education, the NASUWT has produced a range of new advice and guidance.
Free schools explained
The implications of free schools for parents and local communities is set out in an advice booklet and A5 flyer.
With the Coalition Government seemingly determined to continue to encourage parents groups, private businesses and charities to set up their own schools, the new publication aims to cut through some of the myths and distortions surrounding free schools.
The guidance sets out the background behind the free schools ideology and details the stages required in law to establish a free school. It also highlights a number of the NASUWT’s key concerns about the free schools policy, including the Government’s promotion of empty office blocks, disused offices and other unsuitable premises for use by free schools, the increased financial and social pressure free schools will place on neighbouring state schools and the threat to teachers’ pay and working conditions.
The developing free schools agenda forms part of the Government’s attack on state education and this advice aims to support and arm the public with the facts they need to challenge any plans for free schools in their area
Tackling the deficit
The NASUWT’s alternative 10-point plan for tackling the financial deficit is set in a new publication urging the public to champion and protect public services. The Government has launched an assault on public services and the guidance highlights the fundamental role they play in all of our lives. Ministers constantly claim that public services are wasteful and bloated but this publication and flyer aims to debunk these myths and build public support for a fight back against Ministers’ plans.
Copies of the booklets and flyers can be downloaded from www.nasuwt.org.uk/ChampioningEducation or bulk copies can be ordered by phoning NASUWT on 0121 453 6150 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org