Opening Norwood’s first nursery on Monday, Cherie Blair told the assembled VIPs that it offered “some of the best possible education and inclusion for our children available anywhere”.
Mrs Blair, Norwood’s patron of children’s services, said: “In Britain every child matters. Here we have an example of not just that statement but of real action.
“This nursery shows the importance of giving children not only the best possible start in life, but an educational programme that will make them feel included in the wider society.”
The nursery is based at the charity’s Kennedy Leigh Children and Family Centre in Hendon and accepts children with or without learning disabilities. Fourteen children aged between two and five currently attend and the nursery is expected to reach its capacity of 30 next year.
Norwood chief executive Norma Brier said: “We want children to come to the nursery to learn, to laugh and to play. With the huge range of facilities available, we believe we will help children to reach their potential.”
Features of the centre include a community café staffed by disabled adults, an adventure playground, a sensory garden and sensory room and a soft play area, all equipped for wheelchair access.
In addition to five full-time centre staff, there are educational psychologists and occupational and language therapists.
Mrs Blair chatted to children, staff and volunteers, as well as to donors and local dignataries such as Hendon MP Andrew Dismore and Barnet Mayor John Marshall.
Speaking afterwards, she acknowledged the Jewish community’s reputation for volunteering and social action. “In Britain the voluntary sector needs to play a bigger role in providing local services and this is a good example,” she said.
“Meeting all the people today who have given up part of their time to volunteer to work at the centre is inspiring and is something I would like to see more of.”
The nursery has already received a good report from Ofsted and parents at Monday’s event were equally complimentary.
Moshe Ziman, 37, from Borehamwood said his three-year old son had received excellent care. “Not only has the centre catered for Daniel, but for our needs as well.”
Rachel Shababo, 30, from Finchley said: “The attention my daughter Sophia has received has been fantastic. The facilities are exceptional here.”