It all began in October 1970 in the entrance lounge of, what was then, Phase One of the New University of Ulster. Four families of mature students with half a dozen children between them juggled caring and studying in among the general detritus of the communal area.
By the next year the University’s Widening Access policy had resulted in more students and some staff with children. With an increase in numbers it became obvious that this ad hoc accommodation was totally unsuitable so the Student Council suggested a move to the “Quiet Room” on the first floor. Unfortunately the University administration was unhappy with this suggestion so every morning when the first parents and children arrived a member of the administration staff demanded that they leave immediately. This situation prevailed for just over a year. As soon as they were evicted from the room the parents moved back into it.
Finally with the help of the Student Council the battle was won and the Nursery Group, as it was known, was formally recognised. However the small room in no way met the legal childcare requirements and, assisted by the local NSPCC officer, the University was persuaded to grant the Group an area within the prefabricated building known as Cavehill.
Intended to have a lifespan of fifteen years it remained the home of what became Stepping Stones Creche until its move to Portstewart in August 2016.
Anne Rowe, founder of Stepping Stones