Shadow Education Secretary praises Hallam’s ‘innovative’ university-led community nursery

24th November 2022

The Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Bridget Phillipson MP, has praised Sheffield Hallam’s ‘innovative’ community nursery and early years research centre following a visit to the University.

Ms Phillipson was joined by Helen Hayes MP, Shadow Early Years Minister, at Hallam’s Early Years Community Research Centre where they met staff, parents and children. The Centre, based in the Shirecliffe area of Sheffield, is home to the Meadows Nursery, a community early years setting supporting local children and families.

Alongside innovative early years learning and care, the nursery also supports employment and volunteering with parents and carers in the area, and is a hub for multi-disciplinary research, which will benefit children across the UK through dissemination of findings and best practice across the early years sector. 

During the visit Ms Phillipson and Ms Hayes met children at the nursery and spoke to parents who described how the nursery has supported their children’s early education and development following the pandemic.

They also met Aamira Masood, who is studying for a foundation degree in children, young people and families at Sheffield Hallam and is currently on placement at the nursery to find out about her experiences.

Nursery staff and partners then discussed the challenges and potential solutions for the future of the sector with Ms Phillipson and Ms Hayes.

Bridget Phillipson MP said: “I was delighted to visit Sheffield Hallam’s Early Years Community Research Centre and see the innovative work the nursery does.

“I am passionate about early years education and the modern childcare system Labour will build will learn from the examples of centres like this in how we give children the best start in life.”

Professor Sally Pearse, Director of the Early Years Community Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “We know that supporting children and their families in the early years has the greatest impact on outcomes and here at the Early Years Community Research Centre we are exploring with families, practitioners and the wider community how best to do this.

“It was a fantastic opportunity today to share our work and our findings with Bridget and Helen and discuss how we can contribute to bringing about improvements in early years education and care for all children.”

The Early Years Community Research Centre is the result of a unique partnership between Sheffield Hallam, Watercliffe Meadow School, Save the Children UK, and Sheffield City Council, which aims to give local children the best start in life.

Rachel Parkin, Head of North of England for Save the Children, who attended the visit added: “Investing in high quality early years education and care needs to be top of the to do list for anyone aspiring to be in government, now and in the future.  The pioneering work of the Early Years Community Research Centre shows how services can work with communities and families to give every child the best start in life.  It was great to welcome the Shadow Secretary of State for Education to see this work and hear directly from researchers and families.”

Ms Phillipson and Ms Hayes also visited the University’s city centre campus and spoke to the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Richard Calvert about Sheffield Hallam’s role in supporting education and skills across South Yorkshire through its Civic University Agreement

Developing the Early Years Community Research Centre is part of the University’s civic mission to ensure all young people from the region have access to consistent high-quality education and skills provision. 

Sheffield Hallam University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Richard Calvert said: “Sheffield Hallam is committed to strengthening educational attainment and aspiration right across our city and region. Through our South Yorkshire Futures initiative, we’re delighted to be working with partners from early years through to post-16, seeking to ensure that all our young people can achieve their full potential.”

They also discussed the University’s role in training the teachers and early years workforce of the future with Professor David Owen, the Head of Hallam’s Sheffield Institute of Education.

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