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DOUBLE BOOST FOR LIVERPOOL YOUNGSTERS

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Work is about to begin on the biggest - and one of the most exciting - projects in the country aimed purely at the ...
Work is about to begin on the biggest - and one of the most exciting - projects in the country aimed purely at the under-fives.
The government today awarded 'Early Excellence Centre' status to the Everton Early Childhood Centre, making the Spencer Street site one of just 35 in the country to be given the accolade.
And the news comes just as the centre is about to join together with another trailblazing initiative for the under-fives - sure start.
The£3m venture will see two brand new buildings created - one for sure start and the other a special unit for newborn to three-year-olds and their families.
The buildings will all be physically linked on Spencer Street. This will mean just one building full of a range of early years professionals focussing on children's health, education, welfare and social development.
There will be groundbreaking classes such as baby massage and a special child's swimming pool, and a pioneering landscaped play area specially designed for young children.
There will also be a breakfast and after centre club, and access to courses for parents and carers ranging from computers to stress management. There will be a kitchen where good nutrition - and budgeting - can be shared, and links to hospitals, colleges, private and voluntary groups and school nurseries across the city.
Lesley Curtis is headteacher at the Early Childhood Centre. She said: 'There has always been provision for under-5s, but often parents had to go to different places for nursery education, and for support and advice from other early years professionals such as health visitors, social services and family support.
'Over the last few years we have been working very hard here to bring all those together in one place, and this has culminated in us becoming an Early Excellence Centre. To have a sure start children and family centre actually physically attached to us is fantastic. We believe it will really make a difference to the families in West Everton and Breckfield.'
Sure Start Co-ordinator Annette James added: 'We want to give local youngsters the best possible start in life - that's the aim of the project. We've already been working from two sites in the area, but this will really bring things together and become a role model for under-5s service nationally.'
Everton Early Childhood Centre already caters for 120 under-5s, but principally two to five-year-olds. It offers an innovative combination of day care and nursery education for youngsters and also works closely with parents and carers.
Sure Start, whose new building will be ready in around a year, will work with pregnant women, young children and their families and will concentrate on health, particularly in areas where families are classed as being in need. The Liverpool scheme pioneered baby massage - the new building will provide state-of-the-art facilities for this.
Once the two initiatives are complete they will make up one of the biggest integrated site in the country for under-5s.
Liverpool City Council leader Mike Storey said the project would be a vital asset for both the local area and Liverpool.
'This is a very exciting scheme. A lot of work has already been going on to provide every opportunity for youngsters in this area, and this will both consolidate that and improve on it. Sure start and the early childhood centre will together ensure parents and carers are involved in their child's health and education from the day the baby is born.
'This is a fascinating step on from traditional nursery education. It will be a flagship for Liverpool and one which I'm sure other authorities will be eager to learn from.'
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