CAMPAIGNERS have called on the City Council to think again over plans to close 26 children’s centres during a weekend rally in Birmingham.
More than 100 childcare staff and parents staged a protest in Victoria Square while members of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) issued an open letter to the city council’s chief executive Stella Manzie.
The protests come after the city council announced plans to close 26 out of 70 centres across the city, as part of a cost cutting overhaul of its services for pre-school children.
Children’s centres were designed to help give youngsters, particularly in disadvantaged parts of the city, a better start in life with health, education and nursery support.
And the NAHT is particularly concerned that schools role in running the children’s centres has been ignored.
Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary said: “Children’s centres plan a crucial role in providing childcare and early years education. They have been shown to deliver for children in some of the most deprived parts of the country.
“We ask Birmingham council to reconsider these proposed cuts.
“Children’s centres play a vital role in identifying children at risk, particularly when they do not meet the threshold for social services, social worker support or Family Support teams. If they close, we would question who will fill this role.
“Birmingham Council has not adequately included schools in their plans for children’s centres, even when they are on integrated sites. This means the crucial role of those in education is being ignored.”
He suggested the council may not be aware of the full consequences of the cuts and called for greater engagement with head teachers.
Consultation over the plans ends on August 17.
Birmingham City Council says it is creating “a fairer system for providing early years services for children and families” which brings together health and education services for young children and pregnant women in centres across the city.
It says that it will concentrate on providing services rather than buildings and that community venues such as churches, mosques, community halls, health centres and nurseries could be used instead.
The contract for co-ordinating and running these pre-school services is due to be handed to Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.