‘It’s very sad’ Ex-nursery owner tells of anger at having to close up
AWOMAN who cared for hundreds of young children says she is angry and sad at having to close her business.
Falmai Reay ran Elfin Nursery Preschool in Up Hatherley, Cheltenham, for 32 years before closing it earlier this month.
She blamed the Government’s policy of encouraging parents to get 30 hours free childcare per week for the demise of her beloved nursery, based in Up Hatherley Village Hall.
She said it had made her business unprofitable because many parents were sending their children to larger nurseries who could afford to offer the full 30 hours for free.
She said she could not as she ran her nursery for children from two to school age in the village hall, where there were other people using the facility for other things.
Mrs Reay, who lives in Up Hatherley with her husband Bryce, said: “I’ve loved every minute of it but the 30 hours of free education for children that they brought it in about two years ago started having a drastic effect on the pre-school sector.
“Numbers started going down. Parents needed extra hours with mums working.
“It’s very sad. We couldn’t compete with that, with us running it in a village hall.”
She said she did increase the number of free hours she offered, from 15 to between 22 and 24, but it was not enough for some parents who chose to send their children to other bigger nurseries who offered the full 30 hours.
Mrs Reay has taken consolation from the many kind words that have been said about her since she reluctantly took the decision to close.
Having started the business in 1987, after moving to Cheltenham from her native Wales, she estimates she cared for well over 600 children over the years.
Parents threw a surprise party for her at The Cheese Rollers pub in Shurdington and Up Hatherley Parish Council presented her with a framed certificate of meritorious service.
She added: “I am still in touch with past families and most certainly will stay in touch with those just left.
“In fact I was overwhelmed when parents, past and present, arranged a wonderful party for me to include some families going back 30 years. Amazing.
“Yes I am very well known, after all it has been 32 years, but I have loved every moment.
“When former pupils tell their own children that Mrs Reay was their first teacher, I feel proud.
“I dedicated my certificate to my mum who was my inspiration.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We want every child to have the best start in life, which is why we are planning to spend around £3.5billion on our early education rntitlements this year alone – more than any previous government.
“Our Early Years National Funding Formula allocates our funding to local authorities fairly and transparently.
“We are maximising the funding reaching the frontline by requiring local authorities to pass on to providers at least 95 per cent of their government funding for three and four-year-olds.
“We recognise the need to keep our evidence base on costs up to date and we continue to monitor the provider market closely through a range of research projects.”