‘It’s very sad’ Ex-nurs­ery owner tells of anger at hav­ing to close up

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS - Robin JENK­INS robin.jenk­[email protected]­plc.com

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.”

Fal­mai Reay

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