A charity set up by a family in memory of their late daughter is set to fund the first hospital-based nursery teacher in the country at Southampton Children’s Hospital.
Piggles Trust, founded by Caroline and Edward Martin who live near Andover, aims to provide early years education to young patients across the country.
Currently, there is no provision for delivering pre-school education for children aged two to five while they are in hospital – despite being a crucial age for learning and development.
Following the first appointment, Piggles Trust hopes to bridge this gap by replicating the Southampton post to create a national team of nursery teachers solely for NHS hospitals.
Although not a legal requirement, nursery education forms an integral part of a child's development and is recognised nationally with 15 hours a week provided free by the government for children aged between three and four.
All children are entitled to receive this nursery education but, with lack of resources and funding, young hospital patients are missing out – particularly those who are admitted for long periods of time.
The cost of providing a nursery teacher for one year is £24,000 and Piggles Trust is set to recruit its first member to the team via a fund set up through Southampton Children’s Hospital Charity.
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.
“When Harriet was a patient in Southampton, it became clear that, although the medical care and treatment was absolutely excellent, the educational needs of children under the age of five were not being met – this meant that the most unwell children were missing out,” said Caroline.
“We’re thrilled that Piggles has resonated with so many people and, after only a few months of fundraising, we’re already in a position where we can appoint our very first nursery teacher.”
She added: “Education plays a huge role in terms of stability and normality for both children and their families during distressing times and, with a nursery teacher, young patients will have the opportunity to continue following the early years syllabus.
“We’d like to thank all our supporters for helping us reach this first important milestone.”
Dr Peter Wilson, divisional clinical director for women, children and support services at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said: "This is a fantastic initiative and we are extremely privileged to become the first hospital trust in the country to benefit.
"We would like to express our thanks to Caroline and Edward for the work they have done to establish Piggles Trust and look forward to introducing and integrating this role within our teams."
Piggles Trust was set up with the support of Southampton Hospital Charity and the project will be delivered through a dedicated Southampton Children’s Hospital Charity fund – Piggles Fund Southampton.
Richard Corden, director of Southampton Hospital Charity, added: “We’re absolutely delighted to be working with Caroline and Edward and the rest of the Piggles team – they’ve done a phenomenal job in just a few months.
“Southampton Children’s Hospital will be the first to receive this pre-school provision and we hope it will pave the way for a national team of Piggles teachers.”
For more information on the Piggles Trust and Southampton Children’s Hospital Charity visit http://pigglestrust.org/ and http://www.southamptonhospitalcharity.org/Southampton-Childrens-Hospital-Charity