As part of its £88 million cuts package, Lewisham Council is proposing to:
- Cut Sure Start Children’s Centres budgets by 20% from March and then HAND THEM ALL OVER to private providers BY SEPTEMBER - just like their plans to get rid of five local libraries
- Get rid of “up to 100” staff posts in the Children’s Centres
- Close the Amersham Early Years Centre in August 2011
- Hand over Rushey Green Early Years Centre to the private sector and seek to hand over childcare at Honor Oak and Ladywell too
- Cut provision - including by getting rid of qualified teachers
- Increase the weekly charge for a nursery place by up to 43%
- Close the St James Family Learning Centre at the end of March
- Axe the training it provides for staff in private nurseries
- Cut the budget at Clyde Nursery, threatening the Playbus
- Cut £194,000 by chopping posts from the nationally-renowned Lewisham Early Years Advice and Resource Network (LEARN)
‘Sure Start’ was launched under the last Government to “give children the best possible start in life". This Government’s Children's Minister, Sarah Teather, also claims that "Sure Start centres are at the heart of the government's vision for early intervention, tackling disadvantage and improving life chances”. So why are Lewisham’s Children’s Centres to be cut and privatised?
The Government claim that it’s all about the ‘Big Society’, allowing volunteers and private businesses to help local communities. But that’s just a Big Con-Dem Con. The ‘Big Society’ is really all about cutting budgets at our expense. Voluntary organisations won’t be able to provide the quality childcare that children and families need. Businesses will simply put their profits first.
GIVE UNDER 5’s THE START IN LIFE THEY DESERVE
Lewisham’s Labour Council shouldn’t be peddling this nonsense either. They will say that the Centres won’t actually close - but what quality of childcare and support will be going on in them? They propose to save up to £9 million from their cuts and privatisation of Early Years Centres, Sure Start Centres and other Early Intervention provision. Not even 43% fee increases can make up that difference! Savings on that scale can only be found by a huge cutback in provision.
Parents only need to look at the proposals to close five libraries to see what the proposed sell-off would really look like. The bidders looking to take over the libraries range from local voluntary groups to big businesses like John Laing. Neither should be running our Children’s Centres.
QUALITY PROVISION NEEDS HIGH QUALITY STAFF
All the research into Under 5’s Education - like the latest Ofsted report into Early Years - shows that the employment of highly qualified staff, particularly qualified teachers, is a key factor in making sure children make real progress in a nursery, children’s centre or any early years setting. But Lewisham’s Sure Start designated teachers and centre staff have already been told to expect to lose their jobs. The Council will also be cutting training support for private nurseries.
Disgracefully, Lewisham’s Early Years Advice and Resource Network is also to be cut. LEARN has a national reputation for outstanding support to schools and private nurseries. It also plays an essential monitoring role to ensure children are safe and supported in all early years settings.
EARLY YEARS CUTS = A FALSE ECONOMY
Cuts to Early Years may save nine million pounds from the Council’s budget - but it will cost much, much more to repair the damage that these cuts will cause over the years ahead.
It’s not hard to realise that spending cuts on the under 5’s mean that children will then need more support at primary and secondary school, nor that it then makes it much more likely that a child will grow up to be an adult without qualifications and a job. International research has calculated the costs: for every £1 spent on Early Years, £7 is saved in later expenditure.
EDUCATION CUTS NEVER HEAL - JOIN OUR FIGHT!
For more information, please see the Lewisham NUT website on http://local.teachers.org.uk/lewisham/policies/EarlyYears.cfm