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Reprieve for nurseries

PUBLISHED: 09:39 06 October 2010 | UPDATED: 09:40 06 October 2010

A clutch of Norfolk communities could get an 11th-hour reprieve for their nursery projects after the county council prepared for a rethink on the scale of pre-school cuts.

But while six planned nursery schemes that were earmarked for cancellation a few weeks ago look set for salvation, two more children’s centre building projects are likely to be dropped.

The latest list of winners and losers will be discussed by the council’s children’s services overview and scrutiny panel tomorrow before a final decision is made by cabinet on Monday.

The council has drawn up the list in order to save £4.168m, after the government reduced its early years funding.

Last month, the EDP reported on which children’s centre schemes and nursery projects were to be axed.

The plan was agreed by cabinet, but a new list has now been compiled, reflecting the council’s desire to concentrate more of the available funding on nursery projects.

It means a likely reprieve for projects to provide extra pre-school places at:

Roughton

West Earlham Infants, Norwich

Catton Grove Primary, Norwich

Hingham

Sporle

Seaview Playgroup, Cromer

Fakenham.

There could also be some last-minute joy in Harleston, as the paper recommends the reinstatement of a children’s centre project at the primary school, which had originally been earmarked for cancellation.

But two more children’s centre plans, at Aylsham and Dussindale, Thorpe St Andrew, near Norwich, have been added to those that will not get funding – because of issues surrounding leases.

Roger Walsh, headteacher at Harleston Primary, said: “I’m delighted that it has been put back into the programme. It’s an exciting opportunity for us.”

The project, which could begin construction in a fortnight and be completed by next Easter, would see a children’s centre established in a classroom at the front of the school, with a replacement classroom being built at the back of the school.

Mr Walsh said Harleston was the only town in Norfolk without a pre-school of its own, and added: “We have got a strong geographical argument for this. The transport infrastructure is very poor here and the range of services is relatively limited. This would fill a hole in provision.”

Tim Lawes, headteacher at Catton Grove Primary, said the £355,000 nursery scheme would boost the number of pre-school places from 78 to 102.

He said: “We had a very compelling case for the reinstatement of this scheme. If it is confirmed, it should be open in time for summer term 2011. This will make a massive difference. There’s very little high quality pre-school provision in this community.”

Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “In reviewing capital spending across our early years programmes, we have thankfully now found a way to save the vast majority of nursery and pre-school programmes.

“However, the cut means we are in the regrettable position where we cannot proceed with some of our plans for new phase three children’s centre buildings in the county. Children’s centre services are running and will continue in all of these areas, but the building plans to support this work must now be scaled back.”

Overall, building work will be cancelled for nine children’s centres, with four going ahead. Nine nursery places projects are likely to go ahead, with a scheme at Hevingham the only one to miss out.

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