A charity set up by a family in memory of their late daughter has launched the first hospital-based pre-school in the country at Southampton Children’s Hospital.
Piggles Trust, founded by Caroline and Edward Martin from Andover, aims to provide early years education to young patients nationwide.
In partnership with University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust’s workplace nursery provider Taplins, the charity has funded the first nursery nurse in the NHS.
Prior to the development of Piggles Trust, there was no provision for delivering pre-school education for children aged two to five while in hospital – despite being a crucial age for learning and development.
Although not a legal requirement, nursery education forms an integral part of a child’s development and is recognised nationally with up to 30 hours a week provided free by the government for children aged three and four.
All children are entitled to receive this pre-school education but many young hospital patients across the country are missing out – particularly those admitted for long periods of time.
The cost of providing a nursery nurse for a year is £24,000 and is paid for through Piggles Trust Southampton, a fund of Southampton Children’s Hospital Charity.
The funding enables a Taplins nursery nurse to go onto the wards and work on a one to one basis or in small groups with pre-school children, with ten patients seen by the service since its launch in December.
They plan and deliver nursery activities such as painting, story time and craft activities while following the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum.
Piggles Trust was launched by Caroline and Edward after the death of four-year-old Harriet, a former cardiac patient at Southampton Children’s Hospital who died suddenly from an unrelated infection last year.
“Through these activities, children benefit from the teaching that they would have been receiving in their own pre-school environments if they were not confined to hospital for long periods,” explained Caroline.
“Parents have been delighted that their children, who have not been able to attend pre-school in the community due to their health conditions, can feel part of a pre-school environment and value the learning that it provides.”
Dr Peter Wilson, divisional clinical director for women, children and support services at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“We are proud to be the first UK hospital to be part of the work that Piggles Trust and Taplins are delivering.
“Ensuring the overall development of children during their admissions remains a key focus alongside their clinical needs, so being able to offer this service is crucial.”
Anna Rixon, senior nursery manager for Taplins, said:
“We are extremely proud of the early years education we provide for children who are inpatients at Southampton Children’s Hospital and this groundbreaking project is extremely exciting.
“Working alongside Piggles Trust, we hope to establish this service as a model of care that can be replicated across the country.”