Sadly ST PAUL’S PRE-SCHOOL closed on 31 December 2021

It is with deep regret that the PCC (Parochial Church Council) of St Paul’s Church, Crofton has taken the decision to close the St Paul’s Pre-School with effect from 31st December.  We appreciate how disappointing this news was, particularly to parents and staff. However, given the current and ongoing uncertainty around levels of attendance, the impact this has on the financial viability of the pre-school, and with no alternative and sustainable funding routes available, this is sadly the only appropriate, if the unwelcome course of action.

We would like to reassure everyone that this decision has not been taken lightly, especially given our excellent and long-serving staff who have provided a loving and happy setting for many years. The priority was to help them and the school close as smoothly and as positively as possible at the end of the Christmas term. We prayed for the staff, parents, and the wider community as we all came to terms with the closure.

Low numbers of children attending

Though registered and staffed to take up to 32 children, our numbers have been considerably lower than that since 2020 and reached a low of 10 children (on a full-time-equivalent basis) with 6 on staff at the beginning of the term in September 2021 (staff advises the minimum staff operating level is 4 because of the site configuration).

Given the low numbers of children attending, and with no certainty of any substantial increase in numbers, for the foreseeable future, expected fee income could not cover the cost of operation. This is despite the ongoing rental subsidy provided by the church,

Increased provision locally

The low number of children may partly be a result of the pandemic, however, the preschool has also been impacted by the increase in recent years of Early Years provision locally. Provision is now provided by our 3 local primary schools and there are also a number of private commercial preschools offering full daycare and/or wrap-around care for working parents within a mile of the school. We understood that most of these had vacancies, and Crofton School was advertising vacancies on a banner outside for its preschool.

No access to sustainable funding

Government support has been widespread throughout the pandemic with grants to businesses. However, despite every attempt to identify local funding, our charitable status means we are denied grants accessible by commercially-owned pre-schools. The Pre-school manager attempted to access these grants as did the Vicar who was told in July 2020 by Bromley Council that any discretionary funds had been exhausted and that we would be advised should any more be available. This advice has not been forthcoming.

Lack of long-term financial viability

In 2020, the Pre-school made a loss of c £6000, which was covered by a donation from a church member.

Given the factors and uncertainties already outlined, financial projections indicated a significant loss of up to £22,000 (at best) if the school remained open until July 2022, and a loss of around £9,000 if it remained open until December 2021.

During our consultation with staff over the closure, while we valued their suggestions for fundraising and advertising, on consideration, these could not provide the kind of long-term and reliable scale of turnaround needed within the school’s finances. Indeed, short-term or one-off funding injections would only have meant postponing the inevitable need to close.

Timescale and consultation

In making this decision, the PCC has been mindful of its wider responsibilities as set out by the Charities Commission. Therefore, the decision was taken to keep the Pre-School open until the end of December 2021 to limit the impact on staff and parents, and to provide a smoother transition for the children.

Although there was no requirement under employment law to have a period of consultation with staff given the numbers of staff involved, the PCC felt it right and proper to give some time for this, especially as this was a very painful issue that had emerged very recently.

Secondly, they were mindful of the need to give parents some advanced notification, ideally before half term, to allow them to have time to arrange new provisions before the start of the January term as well as honouring notice periods for the staff. As such a meeting was held for parents in October where the core rationale was outlined by the Vicar.

The Conclusion

We appreciate that all parties were disappointed at the need to close the school. Our priority was to help the staff, parents, and the school close as smoothly and as positively as possible at the end of the Christmas term.

We prayed for the staff, parents, and the wider community in coming to terms with these changes.


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