South Eastern Regional College’s creche, Little SERC (@S_ERC), was officially opened this week by Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Councillor Laura Devlin with help from some of the youngest ‘students’ at SERC.

Councillor Devlin, said, “I was absolutely delighted to officially open Little SERC and to meet parents and children who are utilising this amazing facility.

“It goes without saying that the availability of affordable childcare undoubtedly, improves the viability of parents returning to education to acquire knowledge, skills and qualifications for life. I am forever banging the drum of the importance of affordable childcare in any modern society for which the absence is a barrier to parents and, in particular, to women.

“The establishment of Little SERC has created much needed jobs in our District and will be a lifeline for many parents returning to education.

“I would like to commend Heather, Paul, Kim and all at SERC for their endeavours and commitment to delivering such a worthwhile project here on our doorstep in Newcastle and the work they will continue to do in the future, in educating and training students to join the workforce and build our economy.  

“As a working mum, I fully appreciate and understand the challenges that there are, but the work that goes on under the roof of a building like SERC will make taking the big step for local parents, back into education, that bit easier.”

Heather McKee, Director of Strategic Planning, Quality and Support at SERC, said,

“We have seen delays to the project due to the Covid-19 pandemic and are obviously delighted to reach this milestone.

She added, “The project will assist in addressing a key barrier to participation in education and training, which is a lack of affordable childcare, by creating student grant funded creche placements (where students are eligible) or affordable creche placements for parents privately funding their childcare, to run alongside tailored classes.   It means local parents can focus on their future by accessing education in the College, knowing that their young children are being looked after.” 

Little SERC has created four nursery nurse jobs and one bank nursery nurse job, with the intention of growing to seven over time.  There are currently 13 children registered per session with the creche registered to provide care for up to 26 children per session.”

Newcastle woman, Caroline Parker, who has just started the Access to University Course said,

“This is a fantastic facility.   It means we are all coming out the door together in the morning and I am not worrying about rushing around for dropping off or picking up.   Whilst I am upstairs on the Access Course, my children are safe and well downstairs in the creche.   It means I can focus on the course and not have to worry about all the other ‘juggling’ while I am at SERC.””

Fellow student, Gina Toner, from Annalong said,

“Having the creche linked to the College spurred me on to come back to education.   Everyone has been brilliant in SERC, both the creche team and the lecturing team. This is an amazing opportunity for me and my family – it is helping me change career and to realise my ambition which is to progress to study family law. “

SERC secured financial assistance of £99k from the Coastal Communities Fund organised through the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to support a crèche registered to provide professional childcare for up to 26 preschool children whilst parents are studying on the College’s Restart Education and Access courses for adults looking to gain qualifications.

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