Parents protest over pre-schools’s sudden closure

Butterfly Pre-School and Toddler Group in Sutton has shut. Picture: GOOGLE STREET VIEW

Butterfly Pre-School and Toddler Group in Sutton has shut. Picture: GOOGLE STREET VIEW - Credit: Archant

A group of parents and supporters of Butterflies pre-school, Sutton, came together on Tuesday night to protest over its sudden closure.

The group unanimously expressed a vote of no confidence in the committee that ran it.

“Our little boy was due to start in September, a deposit was taken and I feel let down,” said one. “Some parents even had children due to start this week.”

Parents aired their views through a hastily arranged “news conference” via WhatsApp with a number joining personally and others asking for their ‘no confidence’ emails to be read out.

Former pre-school manager Kat Ellington (she resigned days before the committee closed the school) said she had felt “undermined” in her role.

On the day she quit she said “a situation arose when my professional judgement was disregarded – I was not going to put my name to a decision they were going to make.”

She said: “I had been hired to run it efficiently and I did so and am fully aware of all the guidance required by Ofsted and welfare agencies – but my knowledge was ignored.”

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A previous staff member said: “Staff were undermined consistently by the committee. I was bullied out of a job I loved.”

Another said: “I have lost faith in the company as a credible employer.”

One parent told me: “The committee has shown to no concern for parents, staff or children” whilst another felt they had “negatively affected the community.”

Ms Ellington said there were new people prepared to serve on the committee and to give it a fresh start.

She said: “Whether this is with me I am not sure. We just want the school open again and for the community.”

Question marks remain about the financial health of the pre-school with evidence of hastily dispatched redundancy notices to former staff. The pre-school is a registered charity but has a red warning notice on the Charity Commission website for its accounts being overdue.

Sutton councillor Lorna Dupre says the pre-school, which can accommodate over 20 children, closed temporarily as the committee was “unable to guarantee the staffing levels required for safe opening and operation.” A meeting in September will decide its future.

In a statement after the meeting, the parents said that “unfortunately the committee is only allowing current parents to attend. Parents old and new, some that left because of the actions of the current committee, feel that they should be able to attend as their votes have previously been disregarded.

“So just to clarify the parents feel that if they have had a child on roll in the past or currently they feel they should be able to attend the September meeting.”

Statements from the committee that runs the pre-school were released this week.

It says that on Monday they met with the county council for advice on the matter and the decision to close temporarily was supported. It noted that sufficient availability existed in Mepal and Witcham following the temporary closure.

It said the charity running Sutton pre-school needed to call an emergency general meeting “to propose closure in accordance with its constitution and agree on transfer of assets to a like-minded charity”.

It said a private provider would be able to approach the landlord about a new lease to offer childcare once permission from Ofsted and other regulatory bodies had been received.

The statement promised the committee would be in touch with parents “who have been directly affected as a result of this very difficult situation”.

An earlier statement seen by the Ely Standard said there had been “problems recently” following the “sudden resignation” of the manager at 3.03pm on August 12.

Lawyers and Ofsted were consulted the following day and arranged an emergency that evening since they were unable to meet the statutory requirements for staffing.

“Regretfully a unanimous decision to temporarily close the preschool until matters could be resolved” said the statement.

On Friday August 14 “the staff and parents were notified of the closure. We trust that parents will understand the difficult decision was made with the interest of the safety and welfare of the children in mind”.