Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, has recently visited Stepping Stones Pre-School in Tilehurst.
Alok was invited to visit the local nursery by Jane Stringer, Chairperson at Stepping Stones, having previously assisted the pre-school with an application to expand their premises. During the visit, Alok met with Mrs Stringer and her management team including Manager Claire Smith and Deputy Manager Toni Bristow, who took him on a tour of the school. Alok was delighted to see that the pre-school continues to flourish, and is operating at full capacity of 40 pupils attending morning and afternoon sessions. Alok was also pleased to learn that some parents are taking advantage of the Government’s 30 hours a week free childcare offer for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds.
Unfortunately it took the pre-school six years to secure its current two-year lease from Reading Council and the pre-school is still trying to secure a longer lease to provide stability of their offer for local parents and children.
Currently two-thirds of the space in the Reading Council-owned building where the pre-school is based is empty, despite the Council promising to refurbish the building so it can be brought into use. On his visit Alok was informed that the space has now been empty for four years and despite that the heating in the building has, until very recently, been on constantly, wasting taxpayers’ money.
The Stepping Stones staff informed Alok that they would like the Council to deliver on its promise to refurbish the building so the pre-school, which has a growing waiting list, can expand. Alok learnt that the pre-school plans to use the space to create a fully functioning sensory room, which would facilitate pupils with additional needs and disabilities, and to gain access to an accessible toilet and build nappy changing area. The staff also said that they would like the Council to grant the pre-school a longer lease. Such a move would also allow the Council to receive a rent on the empty space in the building.
Alok has now written to the Peter Sloman, Chief Executive of Reading Borough Council, in order to seek an urgent meeting to help resolve this matter. Stepping Stones and Alok have also launched a petition calling on the Council to act, it can be accessed live at www.aloksharma.co.uk/stepping-stones.
Alok Sharma said: “I was delighted to meet with the staff and pupils at Stepping Stones Pre-School and I am committed to support them in their endeavours. Bringing the unused space into use is a total no-brainer and the Council should deliver on its promises to refurbish the building and grant a longer lease to the pre-school. This will allow Stepping Stones to expand and benefit the parents and children currently waiting to get places, as well as helping the Council’s finances through regular rental income. I have written to the Council requesting an urgent meeting.”
Jane Stringer said: “We are proud of the school’s achievements so far and we are extremely grateful to Alok for once again stepping up to help us. We remain hopeful that the Council will refurbish the area to allow us to use the space in the near future. We need a clear timetable and for the Council to deliver.”
Top: Alok Sharma MP, Stepping Stones Manager Claire Smith.
Bottom left to right: Stepping Stones Chairperson Jane Stringer, Deputy Manager Toni Bristow, Manager Claire Smith, Alok Sharma MP.
Alok Sharma MP and pupils of Stepping Stones.
Alok Sharma MP, Manager Claire Smith, Chairperson Jane Stringer.
Information on schools funding in the Reading West constituency.
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