Issue 64 — April, 2008
Finding Jericho's children
Sumayya Karimi reports on efforts to revive the playgroup
The Jericho Community Association is hoping to relaunch the playgroup at the Community Centre with an open day for parents and children on May 8.
Jericho has had a series of playgroups over the years which have had their ups and downs, but by Christmas just four children were attending regularly. Why the decline in numbers? It does not seem to be due to a shortage of children in the area. The baby clinic at the Jericho Health Centre seems as busy as ever. Furthermore, there is a high demand for places at the Polstead Road playgroup, as well as for membership of groups such as music and swimming clubs.
The experience at St. Barnabas School seems to back this up. Jane Thomas, the Head Teacher, says “The number of applications for nursery places at the school, though fluctuating slightly from year to year, has not shown any significant drop”. One factor of course could be the availability of the nursery at the school, which takes children from the age of three and a half.
The playgroup at the Community Centre itself has some disadvantages. It lacks its own outside play area though it does have access to the playground in Great Clarendon Street. On the other hand it has a good indoor space for children and plenty of equipment.
The most immediate problem, however, is that it has not recently been inspected by, or registered with, the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). Parents understandably want to send their child to a playgroup that has been inspected, as they know what they are getting. Just as important, the lack of registration means that parents cannot use any childcare funding to send their child there. Given the high cost of childcare, many parents prefer to put their child’s name down on the waiting list for Polstead Road. They are also more likely to use their funding to pay for private childcare.
The main reason for non-registration is that Ofsted requires the group to have a full organizing committee in place. And while recently many parents have been enthusiastic about sending their children to the group, they have been less willing to serve on the committee. And some parents who have stepped forward have departed once their child has left the playgroup.
One Jericho group that is still running is the successful Thursday Parent and Toddler Group which has had around a dozen children who can take advantage of a wide range of toys and play activities, including playdough and crafts. Organizer Trudy Foulk, says: “I’m sure there are even more children who would come if they knew what was available.”
What would it take to put more momentum behind both groups? Clearly we need to again attract more of the children who are going elsewhere. Parents who live in Jericho might be grateful for the opportunity to use a group nearer to home, or perhaps to spend some days in one group and a couple in another.
We also need to ensure we have a strong committee so that we can be registered again with Ofsted. This itself will help attract more children, since among other things the group will be listed on the Ofsted website. While the committee ultimately should consist of parents it could initially have other volunteers. The committee would have the option of working with the Preschool Learning Alliance, an organization that offers support and advice with policies and working practices.
In order to inform parents of the opportunities for a revived playgroup we are planning to hold an ‘open day’ on May 8 from 9.00 a.m. to 2 p.m. This would offer refreshments for parents in the café with lots of activities for children from water play to crafts. Parents who are interested and would like more details can contact Trudy Foulk on 760048 or Susanna Pressel on 554001. Or you can just drop in.