Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Village pre-school to shut as child numbers dwindle

THE pre-school in Kidmore End is to close next month after more than 35 years.

The nursery, which meets at the parish room in Wood Lane, will shut at the end of the summer term due to funding problems.

The five members of staff will lose their jobs.

The pre-school, which is a registered charity, has been losing money due to a reduction in the number of children using it and had already cut the number of days it operates from four to three.

Nicky Liddon-Horncastle, who runs it, said: “It is all very sad. I have been there for 16 years and am very upset.

“This is mainly due to market forces — parents now wanting full day care, from morning to night, and the Government’s introduction of 30 hours’ free childcare.

“There have also been changes in the minimum wage and pension schemes and all these things combined make it financially unviable. We have been losing money for a while now as we have had low numbers of children in the setting.”

The decision to close the pre-school was made by the committee of parents which is responsible for managing the finances, appointing staff and ensuring it complied with Ofsted requirements and safeguarding regulations.

Mrs Liddon-Horncastle said: “I totally understand and agree with the decision because of the finances but it is desperately sad for everyone involved and the village. It has been part of the community for so long.”

The pre-school, which was rated “good” in its last Ofsted inspection a year ago, offers indoor and outdoor play and runs regular trips.

Each session costs £15 per child. However, this year it has had between six and eight children per day compared with previous years when it had the maximum number of 14 daily. In September it reduced the number of days in order to keep running. Mrs Liddon-Horncastle, who lives in Caversham, said: “I know the primary school has also had a lower number of students this year.

“There would only be one child still with us in September with all the rest going on to primary so it seemed like a good time to close.”

She said that other pre-schools in the area were experiencing similar difficulties, adding: “There are and will be other pre-schools closing as the committee-run model is outdated in this day and age.

“It’s such a shame as we have offered a great experience for children to give them a good start on their school journey.”

Mrs Liddon-Horncastle said she was also concerned about the future of the parish room as the pre-school is the main user of it.

The building, which is owned by the Diocese of Oxford, is also used by the parish council and the parochial church council for St John the Baptist Church in the village. Mrs Liddon-Horncastle said: “The building is listed and I don’t know what’s going to happen to it. We are the main users and the ones keeping the rent coming in.”

When the pre-school closes, all its materials, toys and equipment will be gifted to other charitable nurseries or similar groups under the regulations of the Pre-school Learning Alliance.

Mrs Liddon-Horncastle said: “I will certainly miss the children and being part of the community.

“I would do a reading at the Christmas carol service and we would go along to church services. It’s a very sweet village.”

A celebration for the pre-school and its history will be held at the New Inn in Kidmore End on June 23 from 3pm onwards.

The final day will be on July 19 when the current children have their leavers’ presentation.

• The school is still collecting money to keep it going for the rest of the summer term. To make a donation, visit www.justgiving.com/kidmoreend

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