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The Gruffalo, Hellingly pre-school

We can exclusively reveal today (Saturday 24 November) that the name of the new pre-school enterprise that is to launch in Pevensey around Easter 2019 is to be called, Little Castle Nursery.

Talking to the new Nursery Owner and Manager, Natasha Smith (Saturday 24 November) who is to launch the new pre-school venture, she told us “we plan a new website soon”.

Natasha who qualified as a nursery practitioner in 1994 has managed various sized settings for 15 years.

She completed a number of qualifications including a degree in Early Years, before moving on to become an Early Years Improvement Officer for a local authority. Natasha is also mum to 3 children.

Hellingly Preschool, which she owns and manages, was first established as a playgroup a number of years ago.

Formerly known as ‘Hellingly Playgroup’, Hellingly Preschool changed its status after an increase in operating hours and activities provided for the children.

Natasha explained, “I have already talked to a number of parents in Pevensey and what I am saying is that there is an invitation to parents in Pevensey to come up and see what we do here in Hellingly”.

The changes in ownership of the pre-school enterprise in Pevensey has caused significant controversy in Pevensey.

In January 2018, the pre-school closed with a note pinned pinned on a fence to explain that the pre-school was closing, which was news to the staff and parents and caused considerable upset.

Following the debacle, Nick Porter and his team at Total Care Childcare Service took over the venture, opening in April 2018.

He is owner of two other successful pre-school ventures in East Sussex, including successful and well established ventures in Herstmonceux and St. Leonard’s.

The coming to Pevensey of such a high calibre organisation was greeted with local interest and excitement.

Writing to the Pevensey Bay Journal (November 8), Nick Porter said “It is with huge regret and great sadness that I have to tell you that Pevensey & Westham Pre-school will close permanently on the 18th December 2018.

“This decision has not been taken lightly as we are hugely aware of the impact it has on the children and the staff. There are a number of factors which are causing the pre-school to close, the main ones being the cost the village hall are charging us in rent, and the lack of funding we receive from the government.

“This has been, without a doubt, the toughest and most difficult business decision I have ever had to make….the reason being that children, families and the team all lose out…. people are affected by this and that makes it really distressing for me as the decision maker. Unfortunately though, this is a problem that I have tried to solve but the challenges I am faced with are out of my control.

“We are working closely with the affected families to ensure their children have as smooth a transition as possible”.

Local resident, Ami Cane,  talked to us, (November 7), “please can you get the word out there that our beloved Pevensey & Westham preschool based in Pevensey memorial hall will be closed from the 18th December.

“It’s an amazing provision with a brilliant staff team, but due to shortage of funding & rental costs, it’s being closed as of the 18th December. We’re all so disappointed for the little ones of Pevensey & Pevensey Bay & local area, as there’s nothing else based in the heart of the Pevensey community like this, that hard working families can access.

“Really is incredibly sad and we’re all feeling rather hopeless for our little ones future”.

Pevensey Pre-school is due to close on December 18.

In response, the management committee of the Memorial Hall said in a statement to the Journal  (Thursday 23 November), “The Memorial Hall are pleased to announce that a new pre-school is in the process of being formed. You will appreciate that the start date relies somewhat on the speed of Ofsted giving consent.

“The new proprietor has some 25 years of experience in the child care system and currently has a pre-school in Hellingly.

“It is hoped that this one will be up and running by Easter at the latest.

“Pevensey Memorial Hall management committee wishes to apologise to parents for the current situation, which was as much of a surprise and disapponitment to them, as to you all”.

As we begin to move towards Easter 2019, the re-establishment of a pre-school resource and service here in Pevensey and Pevensey Bay is vital. What we need most of all is an enterprise that is sustainable.

The view of the Journal is that all the support necessary must be given to the new enterprise.

Simon Montgomery, editor of the Journal said, “at this stage we are clearly dealing with a damage limitation exercise of some description by all the parties concerned, with regard to what has happened.

“I have been a teacher for 42 years and understand the context here to a certain extent. What matters at this point is that parents, pre-school children and families are supported to enable the possibility that a new (the third in a year) pre-school is established and up and running by Easter 2019.

“A time will come when the full story of what has happened with the debacle of the failure of pre-school services here in 2018 will be told, there may be lessons that can be learned,  but for now what is required is support.

“We believe as a local newspaper in the Digital Age that we have a concrete role to perform that involves support, encouragement and the expression of hope to this community, in particular at times of crisis in the community, and very much in particular with regard to education.

“We will be supporting the establishment of the new pre-school in every way possible in the hope that by Easter next year, a sustainable pre-school enterprise will emerge.

The Journal will be working with Natasha Smith and her team in the build up to the launch of the Little Castle Nursery at Easter 2019 with a series of profiles in print.

As well a series of features about the work of the pre-school in Hellingly, we will also be promoting the Little Castle Nursery both online and in print.

This promotion will be for a year beginning in December, as we profile the new website, talk to Natasha Smith and report on all the news and plans in the days and months to the launch date.

The first promotional box for the Little Castle Nursery in Pevensey, online and in print will appear in December.

Talking to Natasha Smith this morning (Saturday 24 November) Simon said, ‘having looked to see what was on potentially on offer with the new Little Castle Nursery in Pevensey, two things really stand out, the first is the depth of experience on offer here in terms of knowledge and work inside education as a practictioner by Natasha and her work with a local authority.

“Most importantly, what that will give us is an understanding of both the context and the perspective from the point of view of the radically changing nature of the bigger picture local education in East Sussex. So much is in crisis here in East Sussex.

“But the second thing is equally important, what I could hear from Natasha was a strong, naturally confident person, who grasped the complexity of the circumstances here.

“She is fully aware of the challenges and what needs to be done, to build support for the new venture, with her quality and depth of experience.

“There is alot of ground to make up here with local parents. Inviting parents to Hellingly is a good first step, as was her comment that the most important thing now is, as she explained this morning, to be positive“.

“Education is written like a stick of rock into the Montgomery family. My brother was a lecturer at Lambeth College for 32 years, and my mother (known as the Whippet Lady here because she has two whippets) was a school secretary for 35 years.

“My mother, Pauline Montgomery, has listened to the story of the Pevensey pre-school debacle this year and also something of what Natasha has said this morning.

“She expressed her view about Natasha Smith and her experience . My mother paused, smiled, and summed up the story of educational services here in 2018 with the words, what a relief to all the parents of the children‘.

Simon ended by saying, ‘you just know when something feels right in an education context and this feels right”.

No pressure then on Natasha Smith and her team from Hellingly.

As the pre-school children place their handprints down the Wallsend Road on their journey to the new Little Castle Nursery in Pevensey, they will hold a heartfelt message of hope and expectation.

We will see now whether, at last, a sustainable pre-school service can be founded here in the community.

The Little Castle Nursery website for Pevensey will be up online soon.

Natasha Smith can already be contacted by phone. For more information, please contact Natasha on 07713880255 or email :hellinglyplaygroup@aol.co.uk. The Hellingly Pre-school can be browsed here

Image credit: Hellingly Pre-school