A ROWLEY Regis pre-school is becoming a haven for families who do not want their children to fall behind in terms of literacy.

The pre-school, based at The Flame Community Church, Cardale Street, organises activities designed to improve children's literacy skills and get them ready to start school.

Cornerstone pre-school is one of ten organisations across Sandwell who have received a £500 grant from the council along with specialist training for their staff to help them deliver sessions.

The project termed "Raising Early Achievement in Literacy (REAL)" was first piloted in Sandwell in 2013 with funding and training provided by the National Children's Bureau as part of a Department for Education drive to improve the skills of two to five year olds.

The project has proved to be a great success and Sandwell Council has vowed to continue to support and fund the initiative.

With a mixture of home visits and sessions at the Rowley Regis nursery, staff encourage parents and carers to read more with their children, learn new rhymes together and do more writing and drawing. The sessions are spread over a period of six months.

Councillor Simon Hackett, cabinet member for children's services attended the celebration event at Cornerstone pre-school.

He said: "Making sure children in Sandwell are ready for school one of my key priorities and this project is a great example of making sure our children are given the best start.

"I was thrilled to come along to this celebration and it was great to hear from the parents first-hand what they and their children have achieved through this project."

The figures from previous courses in Sandwell prove that this way of working with families has significantly improved children's skills on all levels. The children all showed a marked improvement in all areas of literacy with parents growing in confidence in supporting and teaching their children.

Hayley Mills praised the work of the staff from Cornerstone pre-school. She said: "Elliot has advanced so much since starting the REAL sessions. I'm so proud of how well he has done and we've now progressed to learning Makaton together.

Emma Bishop, parent to Ruby aged four, said: "The REAL sessions at Cornerstone pre-school have really helped Ruby. Her writing has hugely improved and she's now really good at writing her name."

Tammy Touhy's daughter Ava, aged two, used to be very shy before attending Cornerstone pre-school. She said: "These sessions have made a massive difference to Ava and she has come on in leaps and bounds and is now much more confident."

Silvia Sermon, deputy manager at Cornerstone pre-school, said: "These sessions have been a great success and we are so pleased parents have been involved in a variety of ways.

"It's so important for a child's development if parents join in with their child's learning to encourage them to support their children in their learning."