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Sheffield: forging new links between centre and school

Three-year-olds in Sheffield have a busy schedule. After a morning of "early" education at Arbourthorne primary, they leave their teachers and cross the road for lunch and afternoon play at the newly-opened Gleadless Valley and Arbourthorne children's centre.

Government guidelines say all such centres must have input from a teacher.

In Sheffield, the council plans to put some centres on school sites. At Arbourthorne, youngsters are involved with qualified teachers at the school. One teacher, Sue Withey, is based at the centre. Her main role is to train staff. She is employed by Sheffield council as an adviser, but her job is part-funded by Sure Start and she works with voluntary groups across the area.

Sue Wallis, centre manager and a nursery nurse, said: "Local people say this is what they want - one place giving them access to what they need.

Working parents don't need to worry about arranging someone to collect their children from nursery and look after them. And they know their children are safe."

Sheila Haigh, head of Arbourthorne primary, said: "To have the centre is wonderful for the school. It means we can start that relationship with parents much earlier."

Dawn Walton, senior manager of early-years education and childcare for Sheffield council, said: "We are negotiating with many schools the chance for the qualified teacher at the children's centres to be employed by the school - so they are professionally supported by the school but work with the under-fives who go to the children's centre."

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