Home Page

Pen Green Research, Training & Development Base

Pen Green Teaching School

Our history

Picture 1
Picture 2

Historical Context


The Pen Green Centre for Children and their Families opened in 1983. It was set up as an integrated service for families within the local community of Corby, and was staffed by a multidisciplinary team including a teacher, social worker, early years worker and early health practitioner. The centre was financed by Northamptonshire County Council and jointly managed by the Education and Social Services Departments and local health authority. The town of Corby was established on the back of the steel industry. The centre was set up in a former comprehensive school built in the 1930s to provide an education for the children of steelworkers.


Pen Green, as a centre for children and families, was a response to the belief that access to adequate early childhood services are a need and right for all families and communities. Initially, staff had to work with a vocal group of families against the centre, who felt that there was little consultation between those setting up the centre and those expected to use it. Local families were clear that what they needed was a radically new kind of service.


Staff adopted an ‘open-door’ approach and invited parents into the centre before the concrete was even dry. They worked with local families, local politicians and local authority officers to conceptualise the vision and principles of this new provision. All of the work was underpinned with the principles of community education, and the belief that all parents had a critical role to play as their child’s primary educators. A commitment to the children and families of the local community and encouraging their active involvement in the planning of their services has remained at a core value of the Pen Green Centre today.


Parents and practitioners shared the experience of transforming a derelict comprehensive school, which many of them had attended, into a stimulating and secure environment for very young children and their families. Together, they created an organisation through which nursery education, family support, and adult community education could be combined under one roof as a comprehensive, integrated service.

A ‘One-Stop’ Shop

Through this collaborative approach, the Pen Green community developed a ‘one-stop shop’ for families with young children including:

  • a high-quality, developmentally appropriate, early childhood education with care provision for young children
  • a place where children could meet, learn and grow; where staff worked hard to meet children’s affective and cognitive needs; where there was appropriate provision for children in need
  • an inclusive service for children with special educational needs and disability
  • a seamless provision for parents, with accessible adult education, health and social welfare services all on one site


The centre became a focus for lifelong learning in the community. Parents were engaged in an equal, active and responsible partnership with practitioners.


Timeline of Innovative Practice


Over the years political agendas and government initiatives have impacted upon Pen Green. We have been at the forefront of many early years initiatives including ‘Early Excellence Centres’ and the ‘SureStart’ programme. We have also expanded our provision to offer families a more comprehensive service including early years education and care, and out of school provision for children up to 11 years.



1983        The Pen Green Centre for Children and their Families is opened

1996        Pen Green Research Base officially opened

1997        Designated as an ‘Early Excellence Centre’

1998        First cohort of the Pen Green MA begins

1999        Pen Green becomes a Sure Start trailblazer

2004        Designated the first children’s centre in Northamptonshire
2004        Baby and Toddler Nest is opened

2004        Pen Green joins the Neighbourhood Nursery Initiative

2005        Pen Green consults on the setting up of the NIPQL

2006        Nursery gains school status

2006        Pen Green opens the ‘Snug’, a new 40 place nursery

2010        Chosen to lead DfE project ‘Early Years Teaching Centres’
2012        The ‘Studio’ nursery and ‘The Couthie’ early years provision are opened

2012        Selected to lead DfE project ‘Being Two’ to support disadvantaged two year olds

2014        Designated Teaching School Status

2016        Pen Green becomes secretariat of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Nursery

                Schools and Nursery Classes

Picture 1

The Pen Green Centre for Children and their Families offers outstanding integrated early years services and education for the families of Corby.