Schools put in bid to run Sure Start centres

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FOUR secondary schools in Fareham and a national charity have put in a joint bid to run all the children’s centres in their area.

Henry Cort Community College, Brookfield Community, Neville Lovett Community and Portchester Community schools have teamed up with 4Children in a move that could give them a direct say on education from birth.

Nadine Powrie, headteacher of Neville Lovett which manages the Merryfields centre based on its site, said: ‘We’re four schools with very strong headteachers who want to make a difference.

‘Education doesn’t start at secondary school – it starts from the very beginning of a child’s life.

‘The children in our centres are those who will come to our schools, so if we can have a positive influence early on, and if we can intervene early to support the children, it will help them later on.’

Along with Merryfields, the centres Keepsake, Oak Meadow, Strawberry Meadow and Sovereign are all council run.

The bid will be one of many following Hampshire County Council’s controversial decision to tender out its Sure Start centres in certain areas to a single management, to make £6m savings.

Campaigning parents have expressed concerns that the move could price-out local charities and groups and leave the centres vulnerable to profit-making private organisations.

Phil Munday, headteacher of Henry Cort, said: ‘Secondary schools are on the receiving end of children right the way through early years and primary education – if we can all be more joined up in a coherent way we will have a much better chance of succeeding with our most vulnerable children.

‘We see the attraction of working with children’s centres, not least for the work we can do with parents and teenage mums.

‘It’s exciting for our schools to work together to make a bigger impact on children.’

The Fareham bid is proposing 4Children manage the centres while the schools would be represented on the strategic board.

4Children ran a major campaign in 2010 to ensure the government protect its Sure Start budget in cash terms, and it recently won a double outstanding Ofsted for its flagship children’s centre and day nursery in Essex. Cllr Roy Perry, Hampshire’s education chief, said there had been a ‘significant number’ of applications from a range of organisations.

The deadline for bids is Monday and new contracts will start from April 23.