Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, was helped by two-and-a-half year old Jessica Bufton to cut the ribbon at the official opening of the new Sure Start Centre in Montrose Close.
Centre manager, Kay White, was one of 75 managers invited to 10 Downing Street in May this year to celebrate 3000 Children’s Centres being established nationwide. “Whilst I was there I met Ed and asked him if he would come and perform our official opening ceremony,” Kay said. “Centre managers around the country speak very highly of him so we are delighted that he agreed to visit us here in Moredon.”
During his visit the minister joined in with bulb planting and singing with the toddler group, and made a special request for ‘Wind the Bobbin Up’!
“Kay has created a great atmosphere at the centre,” said Mr Balls. “It’s very clear that the staff really enjoy working there, and it’s great to see their enthusiasm for improving the outcomes for children in the area.”
Anne Snelgrove, MP for South Swindon, also attended the opening, and said “I am delighted that Ed Balls is recognising the excellent work that is going on across the town for the under 5s.”
“Early learning is pivotal for speech and language,” Kay said. “Having a nationwide network of children’s centres dedicated to this crucial stage of development is so much better than the ad-hoc provision of previous years.”
Sue Wald, the council’s Director of Strategy and Commissioning of Children’s Services, was particularly proud to see the Moredon centre up and running. “The building was dismantled from its site in Pinehurst and put into storage for a while before being delivered here in the snow!” she said. “Pinehurst’s children’s centre is relocating to the Swindon Academy, so it’s good that we’ve been able to reuse their old building. It only took about 10 weeks to set it up here in Moredon, and we’re really pleased with the result.”
Moredon’s centre offers toddler and baby groups, parenting support, budget cookery courses, play therapy, baby massage and weaning advice. “We also have a designated fathers’ support worker and work closely with health visitors and Police Community Safety Officers,” said Kay.
Nursery manager Shauna Titcombe said, “Our nursery has been open since the end of August and we currently have 29 children between the ages of 3 months and 5 years on our register. We have capacity for 38 children at any one session.”
Kay is very clear about the positive difference that children’s centres make in the community. “We are seeing a higher uptake of early years’ education, and, despite the recession, we are helping parents go back to work,” she said.
Father of three Mr Balls said, “Personally I know that being a parent can be tricky and in the past it was difficult to track down the right services and support for your child’s all-important early years. With Sure Start many of those services are under one roof with experts often on hand to give parents that additional support.”