Drive to plug childcare staff shortage as Leeds birth rate booms

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FIFTY new childcare assistant jobs are to be created at Leeds’s children’s centres as the city bids to deal with booming demand - and tries to stop some of its most vulnerable youngsters from slipping through the net of mainstream services.

The number of two-year-olds in the city who are eligible for a free early-education place is expected to shoot up by 4,200 in the next two years, but many cash-strapped council-run centres have not been replacing departing staff, and have instead been decreasing their capacity.

Pre-school childcare provision is split between the council, and private and voluntary organisations.

Now council bosses have pledged to hire more frontline staff, and will be scrapping a number of senior and middle-management posts instead.

Councillor Judith Blake, executive board member for children’s services, said: “These extra childcare assistant posts are vital to help us provide an additional 200 free childcare places for eligible two year olds. Not only are we creating new jobs, we are also creating much needed childcare places to help give children the best start in life, whilst enabling parents and carers to take advantage of training and return-to-work support available at our children’s centres.

“Children’s centres have proved to be a vital resource to families with young children across the city since they first opened eight years ago, building on the previous Surestart centres. And despite the current economic situation nationally, here in Leeds we have been able to keep all 57 of our children’s centres open. The centres are an integral part of our aim to make Leeds a child friendly city.”

The YEP reported earlier this year that a ‘lost generation’ of young Leeds children were slipping through the net of mainstream services, with many turning up to their first day of school unable to feed themselves, still wearing nappies and speaking no English at all. This was after new statistics revealed Leeds was languishing at the bottom of a league table of 152 educational authorities when it comes to early years development. The city was also among the worst performers for numeracy and literacy at Key Stage 1.

The new childcare posts will be funded from a new Government pot for early learning for two-year-olds.

Kianna (left) and Anuareth are among the thousands of young women who have been supported by Getaway Girls over the years.

This Leeds charity is giving inner-city girls a voice - and it could be nurturing some future leaders