Free places for Tower Hamlets pre-school toddlers doubles in 5 years

Playdough time at the Lincoln Hall playgroup in Bromley-by-Bow. Picture: LBTH

Playdough time at the Lincoln Hall playgroup in Bromley-by-Bow. Picture: LBTH - Credit: LBTH

The number of toddlers from low-income families getting free Tower Hamlets Council pre-school ‘early learning’ has doubled in five years despite public spending cuts and nursery closures.

Playdough time at the Lincoln Hall playgroup in Bromley-by-Bow. Picture: LBTH

Playdough time at the Lincoln Hall playgroup in Bromley-by-Bow. Picture: LBTH - Credit: LBTH

There are now 1,000 children between two and four years old from families eligible for free care with places paid out of an extra £1 million the council is using from this year's budget.

A rising number of low-income families are now being included in the council's expanding 'early years' programme which includes the playgroup at Lincoln Hall in Fern Street, Bromley-by-Bow, that mayor John Biggs visited this week.

"Parents should check if they're eligible to receive support," the mayor said. "We offer supportive education and childcare for families with young children."

Playdough time at the Lincoln Hall playgroup in Bromley-by-Bow. Picture: LBTH

Playdough time at the Lincoln Hall playgroup in Bromley-by-Bow. Picture: LBTH - Credit: LBTH

The 1,000 free places was reached just two years after parents occupied the town hall with their children to protest at rent hypes charged to community-run neighbourhood nurseries threatening fees to rise five-fold.


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A bitter campaign has also been running to stop council nurseries closing, which led to a "mum's the word" protest last summer when parents picketed the town hall with gaffer tape gags when the mayor prevented them addressing his cabinet.

The mayor looked in at Lincoln Hall this week with Cllr Danny Hassell, his cabinet member for children and schools, to see how the 'early years' programme was working—and to lead a reading session with the children.

Playdough time at the Lincoln Hall playgroup in Bromley-by-Bow. Picture: LBTH

Playdough time at the Lincoln Hall playgroup in Bromley-by-Bow. Picture: LBTH - Credit: LBTH

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Cllr Hassell said: "We have doubled the number of children taking up entitlement for free 'early years' education in five years. But we're not complacent and will continue making sure youngsters get the best start in life."

The pre-school, which was rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted in 2014, provides 'early years' care for toddlers whose low-income parents qualify for the scheme aimed at giving an equal start when the youngsters go onto primary school.

It also helps children with special educational needs or disabilities and those with English as their second language, offering two sessions each weekday for 38 weeks a year.

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