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yummy mummy

LOVE is soon to be in the air at the town’s shopping centre, as Stay & Play returns for its first free session of 2018 next week.

Ankerside Shopping Centre’s monthly Stay & Play morning will return on Thursday, 25 January, where little ones will have the chance to make heart-warming gifts to take home to their loved ones.

Alongside the Valentine’s-themed fun, children along with parents, grandparents and childminders will also be able to enjoy inflatables, a bubble machine and a visit from Ankerside’s colourful Stay & Play monster between 9.30am and 11.30am.

Jeff Wigley, Ankerside Shopping Centre manager, said he is looking forward to seeing Stay & Play return throughout 2018. “The response to the centre’s monthly sessions has been excellent, so we can’t wait to continue its success during this year too.

“Throughout the morning, little ones will be able to decorate their very own chocolate gift and then make a Valentine’s card to take home to their loved ones.

“Thursday is also a chance for children to fill in their learning books that they bring along to each event. Plus, it’s a great little memento for parents and the rest of the family.

“We hope everyone has a lovely time at our Stay & Play morning next week and we can’t wait to see the children’s decorated chocolates and cards.”

The Stay & Play fun takes place from 9.30am to 11.30am in Druckers Café on the last Thursday of each month and is free for anyone wishing to attend with their little ones.

School sign

TIME is running out for parents to get their primary school applications in before the 15 January 2018 deadline.

Last year, the county council offered nine out of 10 parents their first choice primary school, despite rises in pupil numbers putting pressure on school places.  A total of 98 percent were allocated one of their top three preferred schools.

Now, parents who have not yet applied for primary school places are being urged to get their applications in before the window closes in less than a weeks’ time.

County Councillor Philip White, Cabinet Support Member for Learning and Skills said:  “In Staffordshire, we have a fantastic track record of allocating parents’ preferences for both primary and secondary schools.  Even so, we need parents to help us by getting their applications in as soon as possible.

“The majority of parents have already submitted their applications, but we want to make sure that as many parents as possible apply before the closing date, so they are not at a disadvantage when it comes to allocating places.

“With rising birth rates and new housing developments getting underway across the county, there is pressure on school places.  We are well placed to cope with this extra demand as we have an extensive school building and expansion programme in place, ensuring schools have enough capacity to cope with increasing demand, and parents still have a choice when it comes to their child’s education.”

Primary school applications close on 15 January 2018.  For more information, visitwww.staffordshire.gov.uk/admissions.

 

Jess Rees

BEING a lawyer and a business consultant are amongst the dreams being realised by two former children in care thanks to their foster families.

The duo are now urging more Staffordshire families to come forward to help children in care achieve their potential.

Jess Rees and Marvin Campbell have joined Staffordshire County Council’s latest campaign to highlight the positive difference that foster families are having on children’s lives.

19-year-old Jess who is currently studying law at university said: “My foster carers were great and supported me throughout my teenage years. They encouraged me to work hard at school and in life in general and to take part in as many activities as I could. I’m now at uni studying law, which I love. I want to be a Barrister one day but I probably wouldn’t have got this far if it wasn’t for them.”

Marvin, from Lichfield is now a management consultant and added: “Lots of children in care will have had a tough start to their lives, so making sure they are loved and encouraged is vital if they are to flourish and realise their dreams and do well in life. I wasn’t the easiest child and I spent many years myself in care with lots of different Foster families but all children in care want is a normal family life.

I would definitely encourage people to consider being a foster carer and it’s something I’m already thinking about doing myself in the future. The difference you could make is amazing.”

Mark Sutton, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People at Staffordshire County Council explained that the authority needs to recruit around 60 foster families over the next year.

Mark said: “We are always looking for foster families to come forward and when you hear about the amazing difference that fostering can make to a young person’s life, you’ll see why it’s such a wonderful thing to do.

“All sorts of people from all walks of life can and do foster and our latest ‘Foster a Spark’ campaign aims to encourage more people to come forward.  People who want to foster simply need to care about children, have a spare room, good communication skills and be up for a challenge.  If this sounds like you and you’re looking to make a difference in 2018 then please get in touch.”

Emma Howitt from Staffordshire County Council’s Fostering Service and Marvin Campbell

Emma Howitt from Staffordshire County Council’s Fostering Service and Marvin Campbell

Foster carer Kelly Hyden started fostering when she was 23 years old and has looked after over 60 children.  Kelly said: “Fostering is the best thing we have ever done.  Seeing the small differences we make in the children we care for every day is amazing.

“There is often a stigma attached to looked after children and people think the children are hard to care for and misbehave. We have cared for 66 children, mainly teenagers and while they have their challenges, they are the most polite, caring, loving individuals we have ever met.  I’d definitely urge people to consider fostering and take that first step.”

Anyone interested in becoming a foster carer can find out more at www.care4child.org or by calling 0800 169 2061. People can also attend one of the following information meetings with a chance to meet real foster carers:

  • Thursday 18 January,7pm, Burton Town Hall, Burton
  • Wednesday 31 January, 7pm, Staffordshire Place 1, Tippling Street Stafford
  • Tuesday 6 February, 7pm, Holiday Inn, Junction 15, Clayton Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Christmas delivery at St Nathaniel’s, Stoke

A STAFFORDSHIRE pig farmer and community food project have been commended for their work to get local families eating more healthily.

Rob Mercer from Farm Fresh Revolution and a fourth-generation free-range pig farmer is giving fresh food including free-range sausages and chicken away to families at primary schools in Staffordshire.

Every Friday afternoon during term time, a van, packed with fresh free-range pork, chicken and eggs, vegetables and fruit, arrives to set up a stall before pick-up time at selected schools. Here families of school children are encouraged to pick up the food along with recipes to help them cook fresh meals.  The food bags are free of charge although people are asked to make a donation if they can.  The vans, deliveries and packing is all carried out by local volunteers.

Since the scheme started in January 2017 around 7000 food bags have been delivered to families at 6 schools in Staffordshire, with four new schools soon to be added to the scheme in 2018.

Philip Atkins, Leader at Staffordshire County council and a farmer himself has praised the scheme saying it was a great example of farmers spending a little of their time helping families access fresh locally produced food.

Philip said: “This is a wonderfully simple project that is bringing local organisations, volunteers and farmers together to make a real difference to local families.  Getting access to fresh food is essential for children to grow up healthily and for their overall development. Also, learning healthy eating habits at an early age and replacing processed foods with more fresh food not only helps make people healthier but can also help to prevent ill health in later life. This initiative really shows what can be achieved when organisations and individuals come together to tackle local issues.”

Rob and Sally Mercer, founders of Farm Fresh Revolution were inspired to set up the scheme after Rob visited food schemes in countries around the world whilst looking at what farmers can do for UK food security.  Rob said: “we want to inspire young families to eat more fresh food and farmers to link up with schools.  There are people going hungry who aren’t getting enough food and people who are unhealthy because they aren’t getting the right food.  We want to inspire children through experience and visits to our farm education sites to help them learn more about fresh food, why we eat it, and where it comes from.”

Schools involved include:

  • Armington Heath Primary (Tamworth)
  • Two Rivers (Tamworth)
  • Moorhill Primary (Cannock)
  • Redhill Primary (Cannock)
  • Sandon Primary School, Crescent Primary and St Nathaniels (all in Stoke-on-Trent)
Farm Fresh Revolution volunteers with Phillip Atkins

Farm Fresh Revolution volunteers with Phillip Atkins

Steve McKendrick is a volunteer for farm fresh revolution and said: “There’s always a buzz when people pick up the food. Children clamber to look at, feel and eat the fruit, that’s what they’re always most excited about. We regularly have parents saying they love the meat, trying different veg and have cooked new recipes that we put in their bags”

Sarah Sindrey, Headteacher at Moorhill Primary in Cannock – one of the schools benefitting from the scheme commented “The children are getting involved, cooking with their parents. We have also had parents sending in photos of their meals.”

For more information, to get involved, donate or volunteer for the scheme go towww.farmfreshrevolution.com

twenty is plenty

WITH children heading back to school after the Christmas break, drivers are being reminded that ‘20 is Plenty’ as part of a road safety campaign to help keep pupils safe.

The ’20 is Plenty’ scheme is run by Staffordshire County Council and encourages drivers to reduce their speed to a maximum of 20mph outside schools.

Each term around 16 Staffordshire schools take part in the scheme, which is in place when pupils arrive at school in the morning and at home time in the afternoon. Speed Indication Devices (SIDs) which display the speed of a vehicle as it passes by are used to encourage drivers to slow down.

Helen Fisher, Cabinet Support Member for Highways and Transport at Staffordshire County Council said: “This is an important scheme that helps to keep school children and our roads amongst the safest in the country.

“We’re in the eighth year of the scheme now and so far over 200 schools across the county have benefited from it.  The campaign calls on drivers not to put pupils lives at risk by driving above 20 miles an hour when outside schools.  The scheme is also encouraging more parents and children to walk and cycle to school which is great and helps to reduce congestion at school times.”

The ’20 is Plenty’ School SIDs will be at the following schools for the January 2018 term:

  • Florendine Primary School, Florendine Street, Amington, Tamworth
  • Thomas Barnes, School Lane, Hopwas Tamworth
  • St Joseph and St Teresa, High Street, Burntwood
  • Netherstowe, St Chads Road, Lichfield
  • Ryecroft Middle, Ashbourne Road, Rocester
  • Moorhill Community Primary, Pye Green Road, Cannock WS11 5RN
  • Chadsmoor Infants School, Kingsway, Chadsmoor, Cannock WS11 6EU
  • St Nicholas First Belvedere Gardens, Chillington Dr, Codsall, Wolverhampton WV8 1AN
  • Cheslyn Hay High & Primary, Saredon Road, Cheslyn Hay
  • The Richard Clarke First, Abbots Bromley, Rugeley WS15 3BT
  • Waterhouses Primary, Waterhouses, ST10 3HY
  • Thursfield Primary School, Chapel Lane, Harriseahead, ST7 4JL
  • Clayton Hall, Clayton Lane, Newcastle, ST5 3DN
  • Oxhey First School, Pennine Way, Biddulph, ST8 7EB

childcare costs

THE deadline for parents to claim 30 hours a week of funded childcare is just hours away.

Places are available from January 1 for children who celebrate their third birthday between September 1 and December 31 2017.

But to claim the funding parents must register at www.childcarechoices.gov.uk before January 1.

Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “If eligible parents want their three and four-year-olds to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity in the New Year they must act now.”

To be eligible both parents, or the parent in a single-parent family, must earn the equivalent of at least 16 hours a week at the national minimum wage, or living wage.

Mark Sutton added: “Having 30 hours of childcare funded every week makes a huge difference to families – it lets parents go back to work or take on extra hours, it changes their work life balance, or simply puts money back in people’s pockets.

“I’ve heard for myself some of the stories that parents tell about how this scheme benefits them and I would encourage everyone who is eligible to claim what they are entitled to.

“In Staffordshire 96 per cent of pre-school places are rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, so parents can be confident this scheme helps them and helps their child get the best possible start before going to school.”

Once parents have a registration code from the website they must contact their preferred childcare provider to make arrangements.

Places are also available for children who are already three or four years old, but haven’t yet been registered.

The 30 hours scheme was rolled out nationally in the autumn after being trialled in Staffordshire in 2016/17.

School sign

TIME is running out for parents to get their primary school applications in before the 15 January 2018 deadline.

Last year, the county council offered nine out of 10 parents their first choice primary school, despite rises in pupil numbers putting pressure on school places.  A total of 98 per cent were allocated one of their top three preferred schools.

Now, parents who have not yet applied for primary school places are being urged to get their applications in over the Christmas break to ensure they have the best chance of being allocated one of their preferred school places.

Nearly 1300 parents failed to apply by the deadline last year, meaning that some children were at a disadvantage when it came to being allocated a preferred school.

County Councillor Philip White, Cabinet Support Member for Learning and Skills said:  “In Staffordshire we have a fantastic track record of allocating parents’ preferences for both primary and secondary schools.  Even so, we need parents to help us by getting their applications in as soon as possible.

“We have already had about 80 per cent of applications in, and Christmas time is the perfect opportunity to get your child’s application sorted and sent to the council well in advance of the January 15 deadline.

“With rising birth rates and new housing developments getting underway across the county, there is pressure on school places.  We are well placed to cope with this as we have an extensive school building and expansion programme in place, ensuring schools have enough capacity to cope with increasing demand and to make sure parents continue to have a good range of choices when it comes to their child’s education.

“Even so, it’s important parents get their applications in on time.”

Primary school applications close on 15 January 2018.  For more information, visitwww.staffordshire.gov.uk/admissions.

operation Christmas at Ankerside

TAMWORTH shoppers have generously donated a haul of presents to a local shopping centre’s gifting appeal, giving three charities the chance to enjoy a spectacular Christmas.

Acorns Children’s Hospice, Pathway Project and Community Together CIC benefitted from the kindness of customers from Ankerside Shopping Centre on Monday, 18 December, after hundreds of presents were popped in the collection box, ensuring both charities have a fantastic festive season.

Ankerside Shopping Centre manager, Jeff Wigley, said he was overwhelmed by the response Operation Christmas received from people in and around Tamworth. “This has been the best year yet for our annual gifting appeal,” he said. “This is the fourteenth year for Operation Christmas and the generosity from our shoppers, year in year out, has been outstanding.

Ankerside Shopping Centre manager, Jeff Wigley surrounded by the gifts donated to Operation Christmas.

“This is the first year we have chosen three charities to be involved in the campaign, so we were delighted to introduce local organisation Community Together CIC to benefit from the gifts along with Acorns Children’s Hospice and Pathway Project,” Jeff said.

“Since November, we had huge amounts of donations from members of the public, so much so we emptied the collection box many times to accommodate for new contributions,” he added. “It’s so wonderful to see shoppers and businesses getting involved and I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who kindly donated.

Established in 1988, Acorns Children’s Hospice offers care to children, young people and their families of those suffering life-limiting illnesses. Tanya Fellows, Community Fundraising Officer at Acorns Children’s Hospice, said: “It’s wonderful that children and families supported Acorns will once again benefit from Ankerside’s Operation Christmas – a big thank you to everyone who has donated presents. As a charity which relies on the generosity of the local community to continue our vital care, we are extremely grateful for Ankerside Shopping Centre’s longstanding support.”

Pathway Project was officially founded in 1991 and works to help those facing domestic abuse through a 24-hour helpline and refuge accommodation. Jackie Hughes of Pathways Project, said: “Ankerside Shopping Centre has supported us for so many years and we cannot thank them enough. As always, the presents make a massive difference to both children and their mums.

“Their stay with us at Christmas sounds gloomy and sad, but many of them over the years have told us it has been one of their best Christmas’, as they’re provided with a happy atmosphere and for the first time many of the children are able to be little, laugh, have fun, make noise and most of all enjoy their presents that they probably wouldn’t have had.”

Community Together CIC is all about working with people in the area with everything from community cafes and advice to local activities and initiatives. Steve Hodgetts of Tamworth’s Community Together CIC, said: “We’re so grateful for being chosen as the third charity to be supported by Ankerside’s Operation Christmas,” he said. “The donations we’ve received will be used by hundreds of people who access the charity’s hub, Out Reach Community Cafes and Youth Clubs throughout 2018.

“We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who donated, it is truly appreciated by everybody here at Community Together CIC.”

(From left to right) Santa’s Helper, Ankerside’s Administrator Lucy Harvey, Acorns Children’s Hospice’s Kevin Breen, Pathway Project’s Jo Billington and Jackie Hughes, Ankerside’s Manager Jeff Wigley, Acorn Children’s Hospice’s Andrea Murphy and Steve Hodgetts of Community Together CIC.

kids out at Drayton manor

DRAYTON Manor Park welcomed thousands of underprivileged children to its annual KidsOut Magical Christmas event on Tuesday 5 December.

More than 2,500 visitors attended the KidsOut Magical Christmas event at Drayton Manor Park, the home of Europe’s only Thomas Land™.

The special guests, guardians, teachers and carers enjoyed festive decorations, fairy lights, merry music, and a visit to see Father Christmas.

Drayton Manor Park’s award-winning Magical Christmas event is open on selected dates through to 31st December. For more information and to book tickets visit www.draytonmanor.co.uk.

KidsOut provides enjoyable and positive experiences for children throughout the UK who are living in economic hardship, refuge or with other acute disadvantages. To find out more and donate visit www.kidsout.org.uk.

A SHOPPING centre’s Christmas gifting appeal is proving a huge success, as hundreds of generous shoppers kindly donate presents for three Staffordshire charities.

Since Monday 13 November, Ankerside Shopping Centre has been encouraging its shoppers to drop a present in its donation box in support of Acorn Children’s Hospice, Pathways Project and Community Together CIC.

The Operation Christmas collection box is located in the mall near H Samuel. “This year’s appeal has been extremely popular so far. So much so that we’ve had to empty the donation box multiple times in order to make room for more contributions,” said Jeff Wigley, Ankerside Shopping Centre manager.

Ankerside Shopping Centre Manager, Jeff Wigley and Centre Administrator Lucy Harvey are encouraging shoppers to donate before Thursday, 14 December.

Ankerside Shopping Centre Manager, Jeff Wigley and Centre Administrator Lucy Harvey are encouraging shoppers to donate before Thursday, 14 December.

“Now in our fourteenth year of Operation Christmas, this is the first time we have supported three organisations through the gifting campaign and so far, we’ve received hundreds of board games, cuddly toys and books for children of all ages and we’re expecting even more over the next few weeks,” Jeff added.

No matter how big or small, donated gifts will go to Acorn Children’s Hospice – a charity that offers care for life limited and life threatened babies, children and young people, and Pathways Project, an organisation that works to support adults, young people and children who are experiencing or affected by domestic abuse. Plus, Community Together CIC who work to support the people of Tamworth through a local drop-in hub featuring everything from a community café to advice gateways to healthy lifestyle promotion and children’s activities.

“Over the years the people of Tamworth have been extremely generous during the campaign and we can’t thank them enough for their donations,” he said. “If anyone would like to contribute, we’re asking the local community to pop a present in the collection box near H Samuel before Thursday, 14 December.”

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