Cash-strapped council plans to axe children's centre teachers

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Teachers working in Leicester City’s children’s centres are at risk of losing their jobs because the council says it can no longer afford them.

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Earlier this month, Leicester City Council began consulting with the 15 teachers employed in its children’s centres about making them redundant. The redundancies would take effect from 30 April 2019.

The council said that recent changes by the Government to early years funding rules means funding for its 15 children’s centre teachers will not be available beyond March 2019.

The council has been impacted by the rule that at least 95 per cent of childcare funding must be passed on to providers, the requirement to provide a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) fund and the need for a contingency fund to make up any ‘shortfalls’ in Government funding for 15 and 30-hour places.

A council spokesperson said, ‘These changes mean all of the funding received will now have to go towards paying nurseries and other early years providers, providing for children with special educational needs and as a contingency fund.

‘Along with Schools Forum, which helped to decide how the funding is allocated, we have done all we can to protect these posts, but unfortunately this is no longer possible and affected staff are currently being consulted.’

The National Education Union’s (NEU) Leicester office, which is lobbying Leicester City councillors, says the redundancies, which would take place midway through the school year, would leave the children’s centres with no qualified teachers midway to deliver the support programmes currently provided to some of the most vulnerable children in the city.

Leicester City’s Schools’ Forum decided to employ qualified teachers in the area’s children’s centres in 2016 to boost the progress and attainment of children.

The role of the teachers is to support early years settings that have received an inadequate judgement from Ofsted, support the transition of children into school, support parents and families and analyse data to direct teaching.

A report published this summer found that the deployment of teachers in children’s centres improved outcomes for pre-school children and helped identify vulnerable children, including those exposed to domestic violence.

Joseph Wyglendacz, the NEU Leicester secretary, said, ‘The city council needs to stop meekly administering these cuts and start fighting them.  Once we lose these services it will be very difficult to ever replace the expertise that will have been lost and, as usual, it will be the most vulnerable in society that suffer.

‘Only targeted early intervention can help ‘narrow the gap’ between disadvantaged children and their cohort cognitively, socially and in terms of behaviour. To remove this support for the most vulnerable families will have nothing less than a catastrophic effect on the future of our city’s children. When services like this are cut it’s the innocent children who’ll have to pay the price.’

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