Creggan pre-school fighting for its survival

A Creggan Pre-school is fighting to secure funds that could stop it from closing at the end of the month. Like many groups in Derry, Creggan Preschool and Training Trust have lost their funding from the Department of Social Development. For the past year they’ve been surviving on the goodwill of staff, fundraising by parents, and their reserves.

However, Louise McIntyre, Education Officer, says the future of the pre-school – which is due to celebrate its 20th birthday in September – is now in serious jeopardy.

“We lost our funding from the Department of Social Development last August,” said Louise.

“Since then, we’ve been surviving on our reserves and staff who have not received wages and are working full time for free.”
Louise revealed that, following a visit to the school last week by Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie, she gave a commitment that she would provide funding for the centre if another Assembly department also came on board.

“The Department of Education told us they were looking where their responsibility lies in terms of the community and voluntary sector,” she said.

“However, they’ve also said their responsibility only lies with children of school age and not early years.

“Meanwhile, we’ve written to the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and the Health Minister who say the responsibility lies with education.”

She said the only reason the centre has survived so far is because the local community have rallied round to fundraise.

“It’s ridiculous that the local community is being asked to put their hand in their pocket to keep the place going when there is so much emphasis put on how important it is to have early years provision,” she said.

“Its comes down to this – if the health or education department don’t come up with the money by June 30, Margaret Ritchie’s offer will be off the table. Six staff who work downstairs in the centre are funded by the Big Lottery and Surestart, however this money will run out at the end of the month.”

Louise also hit out at statements by the Department of Education that “enough” nursery places are available in the North West.

“Creggan is deemed a place of high child poverty, this pre-school is badly needed, in fact it’s vital,” she said.

“Parents are constantly telling us about the difficulties they’ve had getting their child a place in nursery.

“We broke the news to parents about what’s happening and they’re devastated. They’ve now passed the date for applying for the school nurseries. Parents promised a place are now totally in limbo because they don’t know if we’ll still be open in September.

“One woman had tears in her eyes when we explained the situation. She honestly doesn’t know what she’s going to do if we don’t stay open.”

The group is working to secure a service level agreement with the Western Social Care Trust. Securing this could give them a reprieve.

The CPTT currently has 102 childcare places, eight staff, 30 placements per year for students and 260 people enrolled in adult education classes.

As well as the preschool, they also have a creche, parent and toddler sessions, a drop in creche and they run several adult education courses which have been accessed by local school teachers.

The group says they would like to thank the efforts of Mark Durkan who has been in regular contact to support the group.