Influential Pen Green Children’s Center is facing closure due to council cutting

ITK has been called the most famous children’s center in the world, a globally influential start-up family project that has grown from one of the most disadvantaged communities in the UK and provided inspiration for sure start. Now this great British success story is in the hands of its local Tory-led council.

North Northamptonshire Council executives met Tuesday morning in the former Steele town of Kerby to discuss a proposal to take an ax to fund a trailblazing state-funded nursery school. The noise is growing. “Why are they punishing people who need their support?” An incredible parent said in a drop-in session.

Out of contact with council reality, another parent, Anthony Lee, 43, said he saw his young son playing in the huge sandpit in the center of Penn Green. He says the cuts are in the face of everything the government says: “If you cut central funding, it’s not flat – it’s flat.”

Adam Cooper, chair of Penn Green, told the Guardian that up to £ 800,000 was at risk, along with many jobs. “It simply came to our notice then. It is taking away 75% of our funds, ”he said. “We have been cutting repeatedly for years and we are used to cutting. But this scale cut will stop us. “

Talk to parents at Penn Green and repeat some of the themes: It’s not just that it provides a great service, but it’s like family; How they believe it; It does not judge how; How it went the extra mile; How it “saves” them is their lowest point. Some have said they would not survive without his support now. Several memories cry.

It is a truly world-leading model of integrated early-year care – combining innovative, high-quality nursery, health, family support and social care services under one roof to provide the best possible start for families in a poverty-stricken city, poor health and Consequences of bad education. More than 1,000 children a year go through many of its services.

Now nearly 40 years old, Penn Green has been showered with awards and accolades such as School of the Year, Outstead Outstanding and Educational School Dignity. It has trained thousands of child care and family workers and created a thriving research center. From Auckland to Bologna, from Glasgow to Kazakhstan, hundreds of people from all over the world visit it every year in the hope of learning its magic.

The principle is that by reaching out to struggling young parents and families early and providing them with consistent support, it can get their lives on track. This could mean providing therapeutic services, or guiding them through the maze of special education needs systems. This may mean rebuilding the parents’ confidence, or providing them with food parcels wisely.

“Former Penn Green Nursery children are now headmasters and senior leaders at Kerby Primary School. Nursery children with deep disabilities have taken the place of the university,” said Margie Holly, retired founder and former director of Penn Green.

There are also day-to-day successes: parental crises have been resolved, mental health emergencies have been addressed, and young people have closed child protection registers. It saves money for the NHS and social services, Whalley says. “It’s insane that the council would want to destroy something so successful and it has done so much better.”

North Northamptonshire argued in a council paper that it was essentially correcting a historic funding inequality that put three more counties in the county at risk of closing. By cutting Penn Green’s allotment and dividing it, it argues, it will save the other three.

Although it is not a straightforward story to cut. According to Cooper, the crisis was avoidable: when the council was formed from the ruins of bankrupt Northamptonshire County Council in 2021, it failed to ask the Department for Education (DfE) to renew the nursery fund on an established basis, which reflects excess. Provides Pen Green service.

North Northamptonshire Council disagrees. It said that if the West Northamptonshire Council (created at the same time in 2021) agreed, the DfE would issue funds in line with historical funding levels. West Northamptonshire, it says, does not currently agree, so funding returns on a less liberal basis per capita. “It’s not a matter of creating a North Northamptonshire council,” a spokesman said.

Council leader Jason Smithers said: “We recognize the value and importance of early childhood education throughout North Northamptonshire. We are therefore working to ensure a fair, equitable and transparent funding system for the four nurseries we maintain so that children and families can access primary education and continue it in their own communities. “

Angela Prazer, co-director of Penn Green – who joined as a 17-year-old trainee nursery nurse in 1983 – reflects the horrific time of the cut, which seems to weaken almost everything the government believes in, to level the family. To support the family through the crisis of life.

He recalls how Conservative MP Graham Stewart, a Penn Green enthusiast, chaired a 2014 House of Commons education selection committee meeting in Penn Green. On that day, he warned against the bureaucratic destruction of “rare, bizarre centers of excellence that work brilliantly.” , Perhaps it cannot be assumed that it will be Tory-driven councils that will be destructive.

That’s when local parents Eli Woods tied the knot. He was in a drop-in session and wanted to correct the notion that the Guardian might be like Penn Green’s community. “It’s not a community. It’s a family. It’s like your nanny’s house on Sunday. You know it’s always there for you.”

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