The Charnwood story began over 50 years ago, when Grace Wyatt started a play group in her own home. She was a mum, with her own young children, and she found herself challenged into putting her Christian principles into practice. She believed that all people (including children) are of equal value and worth. Therefore, the play group should be open to any child who would benefit from coming: children should not be excluded because they had some form of disability.
And so she included children who had a wide range of abilities and needs. In those days it was unheard of for “able” and disabled children to play and learn together. At a time when children were identified as in-educable, and others were streamed into separate schools, she was pioneering the idea of inclusive nursery education.
Grace’s playgroup soon out grew her home and moved into its own accommodation. In 1973, the Charnwood Trust was established to oversee and support the nursery. And then, in 1979 after a number of moves, today’s purpose built nursery in Heaton Moor was opened thanks to the generosity of hundreds of individuals and businesses across the North-West. Since then, the building and service has continued to be extended and modernised.
Over the years, the value of inclusive education for children and their families has been well recognised. It was evident in Charnwood and has become the policy of successive governments. Charnwood has had an important role to play in demonstrating and establishing the principle of integration in Stockport and beyond. In 2012, Ofsted used Charnwood as a best practice example of inclusive education.
In 2013, Charnwood opened 2 new nurseries to promote inclusion for children and their families who live in areas where there is recognised social disadvantage. These two small settings are just for two year olds, and the aim is to help them catch up if they have dropped behind their peers in reaching developmental milestones, so that they can be more easily included in 3 year old nursery provision and later when they get to school age.
The same Christian principles that started Charnwood off are still at work today across all three sites: concern for the whole family and belief in the absolute value of every child, whatever their level of ability. In regard to the family, our family worker and teaching staff provide support during times of vulnerability, for parents, grandparents and the nursery child’s brothers and sisters. We celebrate the different skills and abilities that each of the children bring to nursery, and seek to encourage them to participate in all the activities in ways that are meaningful and challenging for them individually. Charnwood still seeks to be a pioneer in the quality of care it offers.
Charnwood Trust receives funding from Stockport Council for2-3 and 3-4 year olds, and funding for all special needs places. The rest of Charnwood’s activities, including the family work and the pre-nursery Opportunity Group, are subsidised or financed entirely by charitable giving. We are always grateful for the support of individuals, groups, churches and companies who give generously, and make the work of Charnwood possible.