Fears for preschool as excluded pupils facility is mooted for youth centre

Loxford Preschool Redbridge

There are currently 63 children on the books of Loxford First Step Preschool, the future of which is uncertain due to potential plans to co-locate a Pupil Referral Unit onto the site. - Credit: Cash Boyle

A facility for young people who have been excluded from school may be coming to Loxford Youth Centre, casting doubt over the future of the onsite preschool.

Ruthba Amin - who works at the Loxford First Step Preschool - first approached the Recorder earlier this month with concerns that the Loxford Youth Centre was set to close to make way for a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU).

The site is currently home to a preschool and youth centre.

Part of alternative provision (AP) in Redbridge, PRU's are intended for pupils who have been, or are at risk of, permanent exclusion from mainstream school.

The council has confirmed such a facility is under consideration for the site and made reassurances about the youth centre, but has not explicitly mentioned the preschool. 

You may also want to watch:

Following contact by Ilford South MP Sam Tarry, this newspaper and Ruthba - who described the youth centre as an "integral part of this community" -  Redbridge's operational director for education Colin Stewart said there are "no council proposals for the closure of Loxford Youth Centre".

Loxford Youth Centre under threat

A public consultation has been promised before a decision will be made regarding co-locating a PRU onto the Loxford Youth Centre site in Loxford Lane. - Credit: Ruthba Amin

Responding to the preschool employee on March 24, Redbridge Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal wrote: "Should the council proceed with this option [relocating the PRU], it is envisaged that the PRU would operate out of the site during the day and be co-located with the youth centre services, which could continue to operate out of this building, as normal, outside of school hours, during weekends and outside of term time."

Most Read

Cllr Athwal said a four-week public consultation will be held before any decision is made.

However, Ruthba is unconvinced by Cllr Athwal's assertion that a PRU could successfully operate alongside the youth centre and is adamant the site could not hold all three provisions - a PRU, youth centre and preschool together.

Fearing for the latter, she emphasised the importance of the early years setting in an email to the council on March 9.

Loxford preschool Redbridge

Banners made as part of the campaign to 'save' the preschool, which currently employs 18 people in the borough. - Credit: Cash Boyle

Working as part of a team of 18, Ruthba is able to juggle the role around caring for her two daughters, the youngest of whom has cystic fibrosis.

She became a full-time carer after her daughter - now aged seven - was diagnosed, and at that time questioned if she could work again.

The email reads: "Who would employ me? I came across a preschool in the youth centre via recommendation from a friend. After speaking to the manager and explaining my circumstances, she saw something in me and gave me a job. 

"This is not just a job for me, it is much more than that."

This feeling is shared by her colleagues, Ruthba said, each of whom is allowed to work part-time in order to manage childcare.

The importance of location also cannot be underestimated, she added, as the majority of staff have children who attend Loxford School next door, or Woodlands Primary School down the street.

Loxford Lane early years provider setting

Ilford South MP Sam Tarry speaking to parent Ali Noaman, whose youngest son has really benefitted from attending the Loxford Lane setting. - Credit: Cash Boyle

Ali Noaman's youngest son, who is displaying signs of autism, is one of 63 children who attends the setting during term time.

A father-of-four who lives next door to the site, the preschool is helping Ali's two-year-old son: "Since starting the Loxford First Step Preschool we have seen an improvement in his eye contact.

"He had very repetitive play before but now he has begun to take an interest and explore other toys. If the preschool were to close, it would be a huge loss, not just for us, but for all the users."

The facility has helped with referral forms to speech and language therapy and a paediatrician, with the toddler also now receiving one-to-one support as a result of the staff successfully applying for additional funding.  

The Recorder made a second enquiry to Redbridge Council on March 25, specifically asking if co-locating a PRU onto the youth centre site would result in the preschool's closure.  

A spokesperson for Redbridge Council responded: "Should the council seek to co-locate youth provision and alternative provision education at Loxford, then the next step will be for the council to hold a consultation with the local community.

"This will consider the implications and opportunities for enhancing youth provision, as well as considering early years provision and mitigating the risk of any job losses." 

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus