Nurseries and Child-Care Centres in England

Sure Start was inaugurated in 1999 as a centralized government programme focusing on providing services to parents and children, particularly in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Responsibility for the centres has now shifted to the local authorities, which will form partnerships with other agencies. The programme is on track to deliver 3,500 children’s centres by 2010; to date nearly 1,900 centres have opened. The design and client guide Building for Sure Start (www.surestart.gov.uk) provides information on the planning, design and completion of children’s centres, along with case studies and statutory regulations. The longer­term goal: Sure Start children’s centres will be access points for integrated services for children and their parents. The respective communities and care providers determine whether to offer a meeting place or day-care and accompanying services. A fully equipped children’s centre accommodates four functions: ?service delivery (e.g. meeting rooms to provide space for group sessions and/or smaller interview rooms for one-to-one discussions; ?administration (office spaces); ?social spaces for parents; ?spaces for children (nurseries, crèches, play areas). The pilot project Sure Start on the Ocean (2000) by muf architecture is a conversion of a former storefront space in the Ocean Estate, Stepney. Although intended as a temporary facility, it is still in use as a setting for parents – who on this estate are predominantly Bengali immigrants – and their children to meet informally with child-care professionals. Despite its small size, Sure Start on the Ocean also functions as boardroom (once the play furniture has been stowed away) and lounge. The facility’s employees counsel parents and identify children who need extra attention. The programme adapts to each community’s needs: in this case, encouraging mothers to take part in public life was a prerequisite to making contact with their children. To inaugurate the centre, a film was projected in the former shop windows and at different sites throughout the estate.
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