A playgroup which has served Tenby for more than 46 years has issued a plea for more members to join, after being hit with the threat of closure due to competition from schools.
Tenby Playgroup was started in 1971 by six mothers who wished to return to their chosen careers. It proved to be so successful they had to increase their helpers with two wonderful individuals, Mrs. J. Booker and Mrs. B. Knowles (Aunty Betty). As the group grew, they took on Ms Jane Lewis. Mrs. Yvonne Williams then became involved, offering cover for anyone who required time off. On the retirement of Mrs. Booker, her role was undertaken by Mrs. Jane Lindsay.
As time passed, the requirements and importance of child protection legislation became of the highest priority which made it necessary for the playgroup to register firstly with Social Services and at a later date in 2012 with the Care and Social Inspectorate for Wales.
This resulted in all members of staff having to obtain at least an NVQ 3 in child care. These regulations changed the legal basis of what was initially a voluntary organisation involving an increasing requirement for record keeping and the maintenance of extremely high standards required by statute, and involving frequent inspections.
The playgroup was first required to relocate from Greenhill Centre to the Leisure Centre on Marsh Road, and then as the work on the new centre neared completion Pembrokeshire County Council decided that no suitable room could be found, so after 12 years there was no option but to once again seek new premises.
A lifeline was offered by Mr. Jo Craig, who provided a purpose-built centre in Lower Park Road, at The Playroom. Unfortunately, the new premises had to be re-registered with the CSSIW, in itself a daunting undertaking which involved huge amounts of paperwork, that took four months to complete.
The facility is now fully compliant and has been operating successfully for several months.
Unfortunately, as education provision is now a business, with funding being decided on the number of pupils on the role of individual schools, and with many schools in the area now offering various types of child care which has reduced the perceived need for specific offers of ‘play’, the playgroup has seen its numbers suffer.
“Tenby Playgroup, which is a non-profit organisation that has always relied on parents’ fees and their own fundraising efforts, now finds itself in the position where it is in competition with educational establishments which provide a more structured pre-school facility,” explained playgroup leader Yvonne.
“Some parents find this approach too constraining, with ‘play’ and the value of play being somewhat undervalued.
“It is sad to report that after so many years of offering a valued service in the Tenby area, it appears that the need for a playgroup is limited, with schools competing with many different offers to encourage parents to commit children at an early age to individual schools.
“Unfortunately, numbers at Tenby Playgroup have fallen in recent months, but we’re still hoping to keep this longstanding facility going, where many of the town’s people would have attended as toddlers,” said Yvonne.
“However, to keep going, we’re going to need a greater intake of children before we can provide assurances that we can sustain the playgroup, so anyone wishing to view the wonderful room and facilities we have here, is more than welcome to come along and visit us from 9.30 to 11.30 am, Monday to Thursday.
“It’s a great place for all parents and carers to meet and communicate and for the children to socialise in a safe environment, and we really don’t want to lose it for the town,” added Yvonne.
For further information, you can view the group’s Facebook page at Tenby Playgroup or contact Yvonne on 07970 886108.