School focus: Ellesmere Children’s Centre
Providing natural, nurturing, multicultural care for each and every child is number one priority at Ellesmere Children’s Centre.
Once inside the doors, the centre feels a million miles away from its location – somewhat hidden from view when passing through the numerous housing estates surrounding Ellesmere Road and Maxwell Street.
Serene and tranquil music is played in the main corridor to greet visitors to the former school building which now cares for and educates youngsters aged six months to five years old and offers summer play care for those up to age eight.
But regardless of age, the centre has something to offer for every child who uses its facilities including a soft play room, yoga area and art space.
Established in 1996, it was set up to provide affordable childcare within ‘pram pushing’ distance for families living within Burngreave and the surrounding area.
It has been developed through community consultation, and as such the approach is to have a team of staff that is reflective of the world we live in, giving children a view of the diverse cultures on their doorstep to help them embrace and understand others.
Dr Sharon Curtis, who has been the Centre Head Coordinator at Ellesmere Children’s Centre since its opening, said: “We’ve had at least 21 different community languages and we’ve had various backgrounds.
“The enrichment I’d say for me having headed it up for the last 23 years is learning from different people. We get something new literally every day so you have to be very open to learning, and very open to being inclusive of different families.
“Our work here is very much about creating a home environment for children and really making sure that we’re quite positive in terms of the individual identities working under the early years foundation stage and ensuring that each child within here is very unique.
“We also make sure they have a sense of self confidence and a real sense of their own resilience in terms of development and early years education.”
The centre operates a play-based model of learning, regularly enjoying use of the new outdoor play area to ensure children are questioning their surroundings and learning through the completion of tasks.
Over the years it has played host to various groups – including Sure Start and Homeless to Homeless – and is continuously working within the community to support people with childcare training.
The centre - which has been rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted – was bought by the Ellesmere Children’s Centre charity in 2018 and has undergone three major refurbishments which have recently been completed.
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The upper floor of the centre has seen some much-needed renovation work take place, now offering rooms a large kitchen area where people can make a range of food from different cultural backgrounds and an art facility for children.
Other rooms include a yoga meditation area and soft play space available for hire by local groups – all housed under a new roof which has been added to the building.
Dr Curtis added: “We have two new projects we’re looking at. One that we're calling Diversecity which is about multimedia, arts, music, cookery school.
“Lots of interventions really where we're saying if we can get the support maybe helping children who aren’t academically focused we can look at improving skills.
“The other project is Emosi, which means emotions in other languages, and it is a very special project of mine because I do believe that children very early on should have therapeutic care.
“When I say therapeutic I don’t mean a medical model of care, but if we looked a play-based model – called Filial therapy it is about engaging parents with their children to go back to those real natural roots of play and interaction.”
Outside the former school caretaker’s house has been completely transformed to now offer a transcultural and emotional therapy centre named Emosi.
This provides an oasis for children, offering a quiet, calming garden space where youngsters with emotional and behavioural challenges can be assessed, supported and cared for.
The design of the building also allows the outdoors to be brought inside, through the use of natural colours and glass sliding doors, creating a unified space and promoting emotional and social well-being.
The aim is now to raise £60,000 to pay for a team of professional therapists to work with the children, understand their needs and provide them and their parents or carers with a structured plan of support and care that will help them overcome their challenges.
To donate to the Emosi assessment therapy centre visit: https://www.gofundme.com/emosi-changing-children039s-lives