Tuesday, 11 May 2021

£10,000 appeal to save pre-school from closure

A £10,000 appeal has been launched to prevent the closure of Ewelme Village Pre-school.

The pre-school, which has been going 50 years this year and is a registered charity, may be forced to shut by Easter without an injection of cash and an increase in the number of children.

It was closed for four months due to the coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in loss of income while still having to pay rent and bills.

Furthermore, it has only 14 registered children for next term, beginning in September, compared with up to 40 on the books previously.

Based at the village hall, the pre-school can cater for 24 at a time and was doing that until it was forced to close in March by the covid-19 outbreak.

Manager Kerry Gibbon said: “When we go back next month we’re going to be losing £640 a week and that’s principally because of the low numbers. If we can’t get the numbers we’re sustainable only until Easter next year.”

She said that the last thing she wanted to do was make any of the staff redundant. “I know people say they go above and beyond but we really do,” said Mrs Gibbon. “The staff have been fantastic and a great support.

“We had to have a meeting and the staff and myself have all agreed to drop our hours and to drop sessions if we haven’t got the numbers but I really don’t want to go down that road because as soon as we do it’s the beginning of the end.”

The pre-school, which caters for children aged two to four, is run by a volunteer management committee of parents.

It was rated “outstanding” at its Ofsted inspection in 2015.

Mrs Gibbon has worked there for 12 years and has been manager for eight and her staff are deputy manager Alison Phillips, special educational needs co-ordinator Nicki Climpson and early years
co-ordinator Lorraine Twigg. After the end of the summer term, they held a “fundraising fortnight” where they worked for two weeks for nothing, putting on activities for the children.

The money raised was match-
funded by Netflix after a parent who works for the streaming service offered to help, bringing in a total of about £4,000.

However, the pre-school needs more in order to survive.

Mrs Gibbon added: “We went to the village hall committee and they didn’t charge us rent for the two weeks of fundraising and they have reduced it from September.

“I know we have got the village behind us and people don’t want us to close.

“My boys went to the pre-school and they are now 17 and 23. We have got strong ties with the place and have generations of families coming through.

“We have never had to ask for money in the past because our reputation precedes us.

“You don’t want to ask for money but it has got to that point. Needs must and if we want the village pre-school to continue that’s what we have to do. We’re a non-profit organisation. The money we make pays the wages and utility bills and keeps us going, while the fundraising is for the little extras.”

The pre-school meets from Monday to Thursday from 9.15am to 2.45pm and on Friday from 9.15am to 12.15pm.

If it had the number of children required, it might be able to offer extra sessions, such as lunch clubs.

Mrs Gibbon said that to close the pre-school would be “devastating”.

“We’re the heart of the village,” she said. “We bring people in, they use the village store and when we do fundraising events we invite the whole village.”

The pre-school will be holding an open day on Tuesday, September 1 from 9am to 12.30pm.

A Go Fund Me page has been set up by Mrs Phillips’ son Chris, who is running 5km every day for 30 days to raise money.

To make a donation to the appeal, visit https://uk.gofundme.com/
f/87fwm-help-us-save-ewelme-
village-preschool

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