LANTERNS Nursery School and Extended Services had a visit from not one but two ministers of state.

Local MP Steve Brine, minister for public health, and Nadhim Zahawi, minister for children, were accompanied by Steve Crocker, director of children’s services and the lead member for children, Councillor Keith Mans, himself an ex-MP.

Kathy East, chairman of governors, explained the unintended consequences of the Early Years Funding Formula is that Maintained Nursery Schools are having to close because they are more expensive to run than day nurseries.

Acting headteacher Lynsay Falkingham was able to demonstrate the added value a maintained school provides, in particular children with special needs who make up 40 per cent of the intake.

The ministers were given details of the primary care services which operate from Lanterns, giving access for those children who require them to speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. In addition health visitors and paediatricians run their clinics from Lanterns.

Over lunch the ministers talked to parents who explained why they had chosen Lanterns over a local pre-school, as it offered their child the range of expertise available, and they are now able to move on to a mainstream school with support.

Minsters also heard that in spite of the closure of the children’s centre in 2016, staff had supported the charity Friends of Lanterns to continue to run the groups and services.