It’s a case of “New Year, New Job” for me this year. I’m now part of the “Qualified Teacher Team” for the six SureStart Children’s centres across our town.
Children’s centres are places where children under five years old and their families can receive integrated services and information. These services vary according to centre but can include early education and childcare, support for parents, access to specialist services for families, child and family health services and helping parents into work with links to the local Jobcentre Plus.
Sure Start grew out of the recognition that deprivation was blighting the lives of too many children and families in disadvantaged areas. The remit was to bring together early education, childcare, health and family support for young children and their parents. By 2010 there will be 3,500 children’s centres, one for every community to ensure that every child gets the best start in life. The Government’s vision is that every child and young person should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. The aim of Sure Start Children’s Centres is to improve outcomes for all children. As you can imagine, these aims sit very well with my faith.
I’ve only been in the job six weeks and already I have noticed lots of opportunities for all of us to make a difference in the context of SureStart Centres.
Local authorities have been given responsibility for childre
n’s centres. They are planning the location and development of centres to meet the needs of each area, in consultation with members of the local community. This is a great opportunity to be involved. Our area is looking to set up locality forums for each centre, at least some of which hope to include local church leaders.
And there are really easy practical ways to get involved too. Some centres accept donations of baby equipment (prams, cots etc) for distribution to those who could not afford to buy them. Some centres are looking for volunteers to contribute to the activities running in the centres. But most of all, it’s a great place to take your pre-school child or grandchild and meet people. Some people think that you have to be receiving benefits to access the centres but this is not the case. So pop down to your local centre, have a chat, meet some new people and maybe you’ll stumble upon a wealth of opportunities down a new path that God has prepared for you.
PS. Some of the centres have coffee shops – so rest assured us Activate girls can be kept in the level of coffee and chocolate supply that we have become accustomed to!