Anger as preschool closes for final time - but alternative 'not ready until 2021’
August 08 2020
The chairman of Filton Park Preschool Playgroup has hit out over South Glos Council's role in its closure after 55 years of service to Filton.
The sound of children playing at the site in Charborough Road was heard for the last time in July.
It can now also be revealed that plans to offer alternative preschool education as part of Charborough Road Primary School have been shelved for at least 12 months.
This alternative provision was seen as partly softening the blow of the closure when plans for the site were revealed last year. Then, FPPP was given 12 months before it must close for good.
The Olympus Trust, which runs Charborough Road Primary School, has confirmed it intends to open the new nursery class next year, putting the delay down to the Covid pandemic.
FPPP chairman Adrian Reed said the alternative provision was"presented to the public and to stakeholders as a commitment but in the event it has been defaulted upon, leaving the community with a hopelessly inadequate early years provision."
In 2019, South Glos Council and the Olympus Trust began discussions over part of the land being used as an extended field space for the school with the remaining area, including the pre-school site and the former training buildings nearby, to be developed.
This provoked an angry response from local people who said the preschool had been a vital part of the community for several generations.
There have been fears that the loss of the'Good' rated pre-school, which catered for up to 33 children, will mean limited opportunities for parents in Filton with the Bluebell pre-school at Shield Road the only comparable facility in the town.
Preschool supporters said South Glos had previously suggested the facility could remain with grants sought to revamp the dated building.
The pre-school paid rent to South Glos of just over £7,000 per academic year.
FPPP chairman Adrian Reed said:"Filton Park Preschool Playgroup has been in operation for 55 consecutive years, reaching out to children and in many cases to children’s children. It has had a huge impact over more than two generations in the area of Filton Park as a much loved and trusted playgroup. There has been much sadness that it has had to close for no other reason than that there is not any other building in what is considered to be its catchment area that is both suitable and available to us.
"We have received many words of support and encouragement from all quarters of the community and would like to thank the residents of Filton for this. The doors in Charborough Road finally closed to children on Friday 10th July and to staff on Friday 17th July with a busy occasion that included well earned presentations to a hard-working and very long-serving team. As chair of the setting for 6 years I have been wonderfully supported by a further team of volunteers serving as trustees, never more so than with the current group to whom I am indebted."
Mr Reed said the closure leaves Filton poorly served for early years education.
He said:"Three years ago there were four preschool settings in Filton and our closure reduces this to one. One of the others closed through loss of premises and it highlights the paucity of buildings to serve the community of Filton. South Gloucestershire Council have received a grant to enable demolition of the derelict buildings around our own, and with that demolition of the preschool as well.
"This provides the council with access to a tranche of land which is very valuable for redevelopment. Although preschool was promised verbally a plot to rebuild on and this appears still to be acknowledged by council staff, it has been made clear that this is not an undertaking which the council still feels able to honour, preferring to entertain the hope that there will be a preschool started at the adjacent Olympus Trust building. This was presented to the public and to stakeholders as a commitment but in the event it has been defaulted upon, leaving the community with a hopelessly inadequate early years provision.
"It is with great sadness that we must walk away from this community need. Early Years has been consistently underfunded for a very long period and there is now little prospect of the service returning to anything like what it should be. Certainly not in Filton."
A spokeswoman for the Olympus Trust said: "The Trust has been working with South Gloucestershire Council to commission a new nursery class facility to be located on the Charborough Road Primary School site.
"It is planned that the new nursery class will open in September 2021 and will provide a separate nursery facility located adjacent to the current Reception class.
"While the class is opening later than originally planned, please be reassured that we are working hard to overcome the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic and remain committed to working in partnership with the Council to deliver what will be an inspiring learning environment for 3 and 4 year olds, benefiting from secure access and free flow outdoor play space.
"The designs for the new nursery are being developed and we hope to share plans with parents/carers in the near future."
Filton South Glos councillor Adam Monk said:"It is a great shame that the preschool is closing. I am annoyed that there has been a delay in the Early Years Provision being established in the Charborough Road Site.
"It is frustrating that for many factors there has been a systematic failure to ensure there is a continuity of a much-needed service. The disposal of the land on Charborough Road has been ongoing for a number of years and I am grateful that the school will have a playing field and eventually a better building for the Early Years Provision.”