LIKE many parents who send their children to Richmount Pre-School Playgroup, Wendy Farmer lives nearby, and is a native of the area.
Her son James (3) was among the playgroup’s first intake in September and he attends five days a week at £7 a day.
Said Wendy, “James will be eligible for a free place in September but I want to keep him at Richmount as it is literally across the road from where we live and it is very handy for his grandparents picking him up.
“Our next closest school is Hart Memorial but it is regularly over-subscribed and Peatlands Playgroup has part-time hours.
“By the time I would add on travelling cost and the extra time it would be best to keep him at Richmount. I don’t see why we should have to pay, though, as he will be eligible for a free place and there are enough children in the area who want a place.”
She added, “The playgroup can currently take 16 children a day but it has more children who attend as not all of them go every day.
“There are about 190 houses here now and a lot of them are families with young children so the need is only going to grow.”
Like Wendy, Caroline McClelland has a son Thomas (3) at Richmount Playgroup, who will be eligible for a free place in September.
She said, “We live about two-and-a-half miles away from Richmount while the Peatlands Park group would be six miles away. We would have no hope of getting into one of the town schools - both Hart and Millington are over-subscribed.
“I would like Thomas to go to a playgroup where he can stay on and go on into the school. It helps them to form relationships with children they will be going on to school with,” she said.
The playgroup’s full-time hours, from 9-1, also suit her as she works full-time. “The grandparents live nearby and can pick him up. Thomas goes every day and if the board doesn’t fund the places I feel I will have no option but to keep him at Richmount and pay £140 a month for him.
“But it annoys me whenever I hear of children getting funded places at two years and 10 months because thee school needs to fill up places.”
She added, “Funding the playgroup would also increase the numbers going to the school and there are a lot of young families in the area.”
Secretary of the playgroup Joe Garvey said, “Many parents are in a difficult position. Because PEAG has not guaranteed us funding, the playgroup is not on an official list, so parents are having to put their names down with us, with no guarantee a place will be funded, or choose options from the board list, which in many cases don’t suit.”