PARENTS are continuing to fight for a long-term future for St Michael’s Pre-School in Lyme Regis.
In July, St Michael’s Pre-School announced it would be closing down at the end of term, having run at a significant deficit since it was first set up and with an overspend of £20,000 anticipated for the current financial year.
Parents were informed of the decision at a meeting a week before the proposed closure date, and expressed extreme disappointment over the short notice, as well as concern that their children would not be prepared for primary school without a suitable early years education facility in the town.
The governors of St Michael’s Primary School, who also run the pre-school, later reversed their decision and announced that the pre-school would re-open for the new term in September.
A letter from chairman of the governors, Michaela Ellis, and headteacher Nick Kiddle explained that the decision had been reversed following consultation with Dorset Council.
They said that the governors would undertake a series of consultations in September and October about the proposed future of the pre-school.
However, parents are still concerned about the long-term future of the facility, with fears it could be closed down as soon as January 2020.
A Pre-School Fundraising Group has now been set up with more than 30 members under the chairmanship of Cheryl Reynolds. The group plans to form a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, which could run the pre-school as a charity.
The group has already launched an online crowdfunding appeal, which can be supported at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-lyme-preschool, and members took part in last Saturday’s carnival procession, where they handed out 300 flyers to promote their cause.
The group held its first formal meeting on Tuesday evening, when a number of fundraising ideas were discussed to take the pre-school through the autumn term and until parents have a better idea about its long-term future.
Chairman Cheryl Reynolds reported that she had been in discussion with West Dorset MP Sir Oliver Letwin, who had advised that setting up a Charitable Incorporated Organisation was the best way to take the pre-school forward. This would be a charity status group whose trustees would not be liable should the group become insolvent.
CIOs are approved by school inspection body Ofsted and can be set up through the Charity Commission. It would have an appointed manager and a pre-school leader.
In the meantime, the group is planning to continue talks with St Michael’s and Dorset Council as the education authority, as well as the town council to see what kind of support can be offered.
Despite not being responsible for education, Lyme Regis Town Council has received some criticism over this issue, as it donated £40,000 to St Michael’s Parish Church in the same week it was announced that the pre-school would close.
Deputy mayor Jeff Scowen has also come under fire on social media, after pre-school campaigners claimed he was dismissive of their concerns at the carnival procession. Councillor Scowen has since said he would be happy to meet the group.
Campaigners also reported that Dorset Council has refused to provide parents with transport to other pre-schools in the area.