Creche course in satisfying the customers

February 2, 1996

Thes reporters look at the increased pressure for improved childcare in universities

The experiences of those who run existing campus-based childcare facilities and the parents who use them overwhelmingly support the campaign for more nurseries and creches, writes Alan Thomson.

Melanie Voller manages Hertfordshire University's Hatfield campus nursery which has been running for 14 years and caters for 43 children from infants to five-year-olds. The university operates another nursery, for 20 two to five-year-olds, on its Watford campus.

Mrs Voller said: "Childcare on campus is very important. We have a large number of mature students and of course many of the staff have children. We have quite a long waiting list. Every university or college should have some sort of provision."

Mrs Voller said that it cost a relatively small amount of money to convert two buildings on the two campuses for use as nurseries.

Principal computer science lecturer Bruce Christianson sends his son to the Hatfield nursery which costs around Pounds 14 a day, a cost comparable to external nurseries.

He said: "The big advantage is that it's on campus and I can go and see him whenever I want. I am far less stressed because there is no real travelling involved in dropping him off and picking him up."

The University of Exeter provided Pounds 110,000 some ten years ago to purchase a portable building for use as a family centre. It now caters for 42 children aged up to four. Many, but not all, student parents are subsidised by Exeter but the students guild wants the centre open 52 weeks a year, instead of the current 32 weeks, for the benefit of postgraduates and staff.

The university is looking at this and the possibility of expanding the number of places available.

Helen Stoneman, who is studying for a BA in English, had three children at the family centre at one time and said that because her husband was earning "too much" she was given no subsidy and had to limit her children to three full days a week.

Despite this setback Mrs Stoneman said: "If the university didn't have this facility it would have been simply impossible for me to study."

Dee Marques, a single mother studying for a BEd at Greenwich University, says she could not have afforded the Pounds 60 a week childminding fees she was paying before starting her course. "When I learned the university had a nursery it made a great diference to me", she said. "The nursery is very convenient, it is open longer hours than most and it is nearly half the price of most places."

Farouzan Fariba works in Greenwich University's computing services department and says that the convenience of the campus nursery means it will make it easier to have another child.

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