The musical learning group which could be hit by Norfolk children’s centre closure plan
PUBLISHED: 16:19 21 November 2018 | UPDATED: 16:19 21 November 2018
For children with learning and physical difficulties, and their parents, a group like Musical Keys can help in many ways.
Held at venues including Diss Children’s Centre, the sessions feature simple activities based around music for young children such as singing songs and clapping rhythms.
But with many of Norfolk’s children’s centres facing closure, the parents of children who have benefited from the music group have expressed concern about its future.
If Norfolk County Council’s proposals for the county’s children’s centres – which would see more than 40 of them shut – go ahead, Musical Keys will have to find a new home in Diss.
The group, which also runs sessions with the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind and the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) facility at Quidenham, moved to the children’s centre in Fitzwalter Road from the Pennoyer Centre in nearby Pulham.
Sarah Yaxley, 40, from Diss, attends the sessions with daughter Rosy, two – the second of her children to use Musical Keys.
“Here, the children are engaged because the parents are engaged,” she said. “Rosy loves it. It puts her in a really good mood.
“It would be awful if the centre went. We would have to find somewhere else but I don’t know where we would go.”
Former professional musician Geoff Sharkey, who has been running Musical Keys sessions for around 12 years, said the loss of the children’s centre would be a devastating blow.
He said: “It is difficult now because everything is a box-ticking exercise and it can be hard to justify groups like this.
“An observer might miss what is happening but when you are involved with the kids you can see when some major step happens.”
He said the closure of the children’s centre could affect local families on many levels.
“I don’t think people realise how vital is it to have that face-to-face contact. These places are major sanctuaries, for families under pressure there is nowhere else to go,” he said.
“For us at Musical Keys it is the warmth of the staff – with people in them who care, these buildings become a safe place.”
He added: “These people are some of the most vulnerable and need help more than others. When you break through, the relief for them and for you is amazing.”
At a Musical Keys session on Tuesday parents spoke about how the sessions had been beneficial not just for their children, but for them too.
Oliver Brown, 31, who lives near Diss, was there with three-year-old daughter Amia, who has learning difficulties.
He said: “I’ve found that bringing her to Musical Keys really helps her.”
Lisa Weller, 42, was at the session with her son Benedict, 22 months. She said that early hip problems meant Benedict was not as mobile as other children his age, so he could not attend more groups with more physical activity.
“With other sessions that were appropriate for his age group kids were moving around and it was hard, so this group was recommended to us and it is great because it is smaller and there is plenty of room,” she said.
Ms Weller, from Diss, said parenthood had not been an “easy road” for her and that the size and quiet, friendly nature of Musical Keys had also helped her.