Kintbury Pre-school urgently needs your help: 19 October 2023 update

Update 19 October 2023

The following statement was received from the pre-school on 19 October:

“We have raised over £6,000 from the GoFundMe page. We are continuing to fundraise to get us in a more financially stable position, but will be remaining open for the foreseeable future. Staff are remaining positive and are all looking to the future of the setting. We have also had some interest from prospective parents, so numbers will hopefully rise soon.

“There are some upcoming events organised for December including a Christmas craft workshop at the Jubilee centre craft fair and a Christmas prize Bingo to be held at the Blue Ball. Dates to follow.

“We would like to thank everyone for supporting us so that we can remain open. Kintbury Preschool is a much-needed community resource, not just for Kintbury families but for everyone in the local community.”

Background

If you a have a five-year-old, the law is very clear: you have to send them to school. In the two years before then, depending on your circumstances between 15 and 30 hours of free childcare are provided through approved pre-schools and nurseries. Those who want more than their allocation will need to pay.

Not all parents will avail themselves of all or any of this service. How close and how good the pre-school or nursery is, how much they charge and how much the parent needs or feels that their child benefits from this will all determine where or if the offer is taken up. Pre-schools and nurseries thus have one foot in the state sector (in that they get government funding and provide a service to parents) and one in the private sector (in that they are competing with other pre-schools or nurseries, or nothing at all, depending on what they can offer).

Pre-schools are in a vulnerable position. This is particularly the case if there are falling numbers of young children in a community, either because of reduced birth rates or parents with kids, or kids in mind, move away because of high house prices. Many pre-schools often have quite small cohorts and a low-level of funding per child but need to provide a minimum care and service level regardless of the number of children, so reducing economies of scale. Finally, we have inflation, whose unwelcome return has pushed up not only the costs that families face (so sometimes making extra child care a shed-able cost) but also the costs of running school.

All of these situations apply in Kintbury, whose pre-school has been in the village for 47 years. In an announcement that will shock many local families, the school has announced that as matters stand it won’t be able to remain open after 6 October 2023 unless it raises a whopping £20,000 in the next few weeks. Kintbury Parish Council and West Berkshire Council have both been supportive but there’s limit to what either can do.

Although the main challenge is one of on-going funding, the school points to two factors which might make this a temporary problem. The first is that it seems that the birth rate and number of children in the area has shown signs of starting to rise which should, from September 2024, see more kids in the area. The second is that, a spokesperson for the school told Penny Post on 13 September, “a new childcare scheme is coming into play in April 2024 to help the working parents which should also encourage more children through the door.”

As pre-school attendance is not mandatory, there is nothing to prevent one closing. In the same way, there’s no law that says a town the size of nearby Hungerford has to have a Post Office or a pharmacy. About five years ago it nearly lost the former and the way things are going, the latter doesn’t look as secure as it once did. Kintbury’s pre-school is in the same box. The trouble is that once these things are gone, they’re often gone for good.

Many funders will, with good reason, not support applications which involve day-to-day costs. In this case, however, we’re dealing with a problem that might only last a year or so and will provide some breathing space for Kintbury Pre-school to make whatever changes it needs to stay afloat.

Can you help?

The fundraising campaign has kick-started this week to raise the £20,000 needed to cover their costs for this academic year, otherwise they will lose their staff after October halfterm.  If you can help please visits their GoFundMe page and look out for further initiatives planned over the next few weeks. If you have any fundraising ideas or can help in any way, please contact Charlotte Bullock on kintburypreschoolchair@gmail.com or 07765 040 269. The clock is ticking, however, and 6 October is not far off.

“We provide a safe place for a lot of children and parents,” a spokesperson told Penny Post on 12 September. “We provide lunchboxes when parents can’t, we give parents a break and we offer children with an educational setting. There isn’t another such place in the village. If we go, a lot of children are now going to go without.” Let’s see if we can keep it going for another year until it can once again stand on its own two feet.

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