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Fears for pre-school shortage in town following shock closure

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A PARENT has expressed their concern about the potential shortage of pre-school places in the town, following the closure of Sunflowers Pre-school.

The parent, whose youngest child was due to join the pre-school in September, has called the decision to close the pre-school ‘rash’ at a time when more housing in the area could increase demand.

The pre-school, on Ruskin Avenue, officially closed at the end of the school year in July, after being rated inadequate by Ofsted after an inspection in June.  Concerns raised during the inspection included: the inconsistent quality of teaching; the management committee not understanding fully its legal responsibilities; and some staff having a weak knowledge and understanding of child protection and wider safeguarding issues.

The pre-school was given a number of deadlines – in June, July and August – to improve and meet the requirements of the early years foundation stage. However, the pre-school’s management committee made the decision to close instead.

In a letter to parents and guardians, chairman of the pre-school, Sam Cox, explained that the final decision to close had been ‘taken out of their control’.

About the decision to close, the concerned parent said, “I know that Ofsted are there for our children’s welfare, and I appreciate the work of Ofsted. However in my personal opinion I do not believe that Sunflowers was given the appropriate chance to secure the training for the team, or to sort out the committee problems.

“Instead of such a final (and I believe rash) decision, would it not have been more beneficial to maybe have allowed the time of the original deadline given to be utilised? To maybe have suggested seeking advice from a source who is in the know? To be given support, etc.

“Was closure the only option? Was losing the amount of places provided by Sunflowers at a time where more residents moving into the area is looming a smart idea or necessary? Surely this could put pressure on other places trying to accommodate the children.”

Following the news of the closure, the parent began researching the other options available in the town. They said, “There are now seven registered pre-schools/nurseries in Melksham and in the surrounding areas, two in Forest and Sandridge, three in Bowerhill and two in Melksham town. 

“The obvious problem for some parents will be that with the new properties being built in Bowerhill, it will create more traffic and so make it harder for parents to get their children to establishments in that area at the times of day needed. 

“Next problem is finding availability. I know at least one establishment has no spaces available, there could be more. As far as I know two places do not accept two-year funding, there could be even more. One doesn’t accept children under three. One has a rule of a minimum six-hour day for children which would more than likely run close to school run times for any older children if a parent has any. That then leaves, if the previous information is correct, four establishments. 

“If you are unable to travel outside of Melksham town for whatever reasons then that leaves two nurseries. If we assume that every parent of a Sunflowers registered child needs the convenience of a Melksham town nursery that means the parents of the 55 children affected are trying to get a place at one of the two nurseries in Melksham town.”

In response to concerns, Pauline Church, cabinet member at Wiltshire Council for children, education and skills, told Melksham News, “The management committee of Sunflower’s Pre-school made the decision to close at the end of July. Our team at Wiltshire Council are aware of this decision and have been supporting the committee as they work through this process of closing the pre-school.

“Parents have been proactive in successfully securing alternative pre-school places for their children. There are three nurseries nearby to Sunflowers Pre-school – Queensway Chapel Pre-school, Little Robins and the nursery at Rivermead School, all of which have spare places for children who still need a place for September.”

One Response to Fears for pre-school shortage in town following shock closure

  1. Julie Lavery

    August 25, 2019 at 8:06 am

    I really think when housing applications go into Wiltshire Council, they should investigate the infrastructure of the town.

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