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Fun Run for the Family Centre

Yesterday’s fun run was a remarkable achievement. To have so many members of our community – staff, children, parents and grandparents, charging around Alexandra Palace and Durnsford Park on a Sunday morning to raise funds for our Family Centre, says such a lot about our community and left me feeling extremely proud.

To understand the strength of this feeling for the Family Centre, you really need to understand its history. After a great deal of planning and preparation, and a major building project, this essential community resource was opened in 2009 as a ‘Sure Start’ Children’s Centre. Hugely influenced by the ‘Head Start’ programme in the US, ‘Sure Start’ was a flagship policy of the Labour government of the time. The argument went that money invested in children’s health, education and wellbeing between birth and a child’s third birthday, would have a huge impact on their life chances. Indeed the research from the US experience suggested that for every dollar invested in ‘Head Start’, ten dollars would be saved over the course of the child’s life. This claim was based on 30 years of the ‘Head Start’ programme, but unfortunately we weren’t in a position to do the same at Highgate Primary, as nine months into our new project, all funding was cut and the centre was earmarked for closure.

The local campaign that followed was quite remarkable as the community united to show its strength of feeling. Haringey’s Lead Member for Children was given a particularly difficult time at a public meeting in the school hall, I represented the views of the community at the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee and we even had the opportunity to put our case to Michael Gove at the Department for Education. Against all odds we were granted a reprieve, allowing the school to develop a new model for the cost effective delivery of this vital service, and in partnership with Whittington Health, the Family Centre at Highgate Primary School was born.

Since then we haven’t looked back, with an incredible range of services on offer. Midwifery, health visitors and Stay and Play sessions for families with young children; the Night Owls after-school club, children’s parties, birthing classes and a much needed home for the PSA. Our Family Centre is officially brilliant. Funding may still be precarious, but with such support from the community, I anticipate that in 30 years time we too will be able to assess its impact.

We’re used to hearing that it takes a village to raise a child but for me, events this weekend, including not only the run, but our ‘One World’ international evening, illustrated this perfectly. Educating our children is a shared responsibility and if we can do it well, together, and have a lot of fun at the same time, then that’s something worth celebrating.

Support Our Family Centre

William