Important Notice – 4th November 2021

It is with very real sadness that we announce that this lovely Preschool must close this Christmas.

To explain why this is happening:

As a relatively small charity owned and led setting, it has been getting harder and harder to be financially stable with our method of funding being so closely tied to Government set fees that the Local Authority pay us based on headcounts. We have known for a while that it was getting less sustainable as time went on and the Trustees have had to have several discussions over the last few years as to whether it was still possible to keep it running.

As a small setting we can’t get any of the economies of scale of a larger Nursery or Preschool, and if children’s numbers fell a bit at times of the year, our staff costs are always going to be a larger percentage than those settings. Unless we could find another way to grow and remain with fuller numbers of children all year round, it was now becoming obvious it would very likely need to finally and sadly close. When our current Manager asked if she could step back from the role to spend more time on the floor with the children, it gave a final option – to see if we could find someone to replace her, but now with a changed role with more of a financial background while still being a great early years educator. Someone who could help us plan a new way ahead.

We therefore began the search to see if such an early year’s professional was available to help the setting navigate the more difficult financial environment in which it now must operate.

Having advertised twice widely in the city among the appropriate sites with which early years professionals connect, it has become apparent that there is a wider shortage of staff in this sector in Plymouth, with lots of vacancies from Level 3 up to Manager.

We had very few apply and were only able in the end to meet two candidates. Our aim was to explore during interview whether they may have been able to lead us in a new way, someone to plan and grow us into the future, while maintaining a close financial oversight. We didn’t find that person. If we had appointed one of our applicants, they could have done a great job of leading this fantastic team of educators, but without finding that new way of managing the setting, the finances would have just continued to decline and we would have placed them into a very stressful situation that would simply reach a financial crisis again very soon.

Therefore, the future of the setting is now in financial jeopardy if we keep on as we are into next year. There comes a time when you recognise that time is against you. We are so sorry, but the Trustees have now reached a decision that we are at that point.

As we looked after the interviews at where we now stand financially, without that type of person at the helm, we would enter 2022 with potential deficits and too great a risk that we might not be able to recoup further losses, which is something we can’t do as a charity.

Over the last few weeks, we have also had news of increasing energy costs, for which charities are not price-capped, of the Government’s increases next year to employers National Insurance payments and of them raising the Living Wage by 6.6%. While we understand that is needed, they will always transfer up through the pay grades and there is no balancing good news on increasing Local Authority fees to help against the very obvious increases in costs. Before these increases came along, our small size meant we had serious problems, but now with them adding into our already difficult picture, sadly, the Preschool just cannot survive safely anymore.

The Church has never wanted to remove funds from the Preschool, rather always having a hope it would just cover its direct costs and the church would look after and maintain the buildings as if rent free. Each month there were only ever transfers across from the Preschool account to the Church account that covered the costs of running – water, gas, electricity and the regular cleaning. We have stayed open longer than many, maybe because we never needed a profit or charged rent etc, but it seems the times are changing and smaller charitable settings such as ours are just not viable.

Thank you

We take great pride in all the staff that St Jude’s has been able to support over these decades and we can only say ‘Thank You’ to them. The Church will fulfil all our duties to ensure we honour all the statutory notice periods and redundancy payments due to each one of them. There is some relief knowing there are jobs out there waiting to be filled that we hadn’t know about until recently. We hope to take the children through the last few weeks to Christmas so that they don’t need to have two disruptions before January and help them avoid having to swap immediately and then in a few weeks have Christmas off as well.

We feel honoured to have had all our links with so many families and children in our community and we thank you for allowing us to be a part of your family and trusting this important part of the early years of your child to us.

We hope all the children and their families, who we have had the privilege to meet over all the decades we have been here, will have lovely memories of this great little Preschool and we pray all our staff will find the next stages of their careers as fulfilling as we hope they have found them here, but we now must close at Christmas 2021.