‘Concern’ for under-fives in deprived area of Leighton

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The headteacher of Leighton Buzzard Children’s Centre admits she is “concerned” that under-fives in the most deprived areas of town aren’t getting the best start in life.

Marea Rawlings, who has been in charge of The Moorings centre in Vandyke Road since April when it came under the control of her school, St George’s Lower, says services to improve the situation are being reviewed and developed.

Ms Rawlings explained: “The first five years of life are critical to a child’s health and development so the focus of this review has been to consider the best way to meet the needs of our children and their families.

“The number of children ready to learn and grow when they start school is something we are committed to and we needed to improve services to all our families living in Leighton Buzzard and the surrounding area.

“The difference in readiness between children from the most deprived parts of Leighton Buzzard and the rest of the town is a concern.

“We now have an opportunity to make a real difference, both the school and the children’s centre is committed to working together to provide a quality local service to benefit all the town’s children.”

Previously the children’s centre was managed by Action for Children, but moving forward, Central Beds Council wanted a greater focus on providing targeted services, including health, early childhood development activities, parenting support, benefits and housing advice, adult education opportunities and support into employment. The centre will also be offering support for parents and community groups to develop their own activity sessions using the resources available at the centre.

The council says it wants to make the system more accessible for its local communities by working more closely with schools, local services, voluntary and independent sectors, to combine the appropriate support through one organiser in each district.

A council spokesman said:“We aim to collaborate with St George’s Lower School management team and the experienced team at Leighton Buzzard Children’s Centre in reducing duplication between partners of our resources, allowing us to measure the results of what we commission with greater effect, ensuring more children will have a better start in life.”

Hazel Jeffrey, Leighton Buzzard Children Centre manager, added: “We recognise some parents may need a great deal of help, while others need very little.

“The intention is to offer the right level of help to all families who need it, so whether it’s providing information or something more complex and sustained, it can make a huge difference in helping children thrive at each developmental stage and milestone.”

Since April the centre has introduced Parents in Partnership group meetings, set up for anyone wishing to discuss local provision.

The range of services offered from Leighton Buzzard Children’s Centre will continue to be developed in the coming months. In May the centre hosted an open day at The Moorings Centre on Vandyke Road.

> The children’s centre is hosting a free family fun morning on the sports field at St George’s Lower School, East Street this Saturday (July 4). The event will run from 10am to 12noon.

Off road parking is provided and the event is free for families with children under five. Stalls will include face painting, craft tables, a family friendly farm, bouncy castles and lots more.