Skip to main content

New government, more big ideas...

How the Pounds 540 million for disadvantaged toddlers is viewed on the wrong side of the Westminister tracks.

ROSEMARY Phillips isn't getting too excited about Sure Start - she's seen it all before. In 30 years of running Hurley House pre-school in Kennington, south London, she's witnessed plenty of government bright ideas, including the mums' army and nursery vouchers.

She began Hurley House with a single volunteer - herself. Today she employs six full-time staff, three trainees and provides low-cost childcare for 36 children, 52 weeks a year. The enterprise allows 36 parents to get into work or training.

The pre-school costs Pounds 72,000 a year to run. But she says that what it offers in less obvious terms can not be priced.

She says: "You wouldn't believe the problems we deal with here. Violent boyfriends, lending someone a couple of quid to buy food, sorting out benefits or taking a toddler off a mum's hands when she's reached the end of her tether and needs a couple of hours' breathing space. They call us their extended family."

Thirty years ago the area was predominantly white and lone parents were a minority group, but today it is a rich ethnic mix and 80 per cent of those using the centre are single-parent families. There are at least three lone dads on the waiting list.

Hurley's children chase around a concrete playground overshadowed by huge tower blocks on one side, but go largely unnoticed by MPs occupying the stately Regency terraces, just a mile from Westminster, on the other.

Hurley's staff have asked for Pounds 78,000 to upgrade facilities and provide 13 new full-time places. Ms Phillips says: "It's simple arithmetic - 13 mums and dads off benefits and the Government will get their investment back within the year."

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you