Parents hit out at playgroup closure

AN Ellon parent has hit out at the lack of communication between the local authority and parents at Ellon Community Centre Playgroup - which now faces closure.

Mother of three and Chairperson of the Ellon Playgroup, Jill Graham spoke of her anger at the decision - which means her youngest daughter Lucy (2) will not benefit in the same way as her older sisters Emily (4) and Ailsa (3).

“I’m upset that my parental choice has been taken away from me. I’ve seen the ideal with two of my daughters, and now Lucy is not going to get that option.

“The playgroup has been running for more than 30 years, I attended when I was young - to think they are going to take it away from us when it is at the heart of our community, is upsetting for the children and the parents.”

She said: “The support and social aspect is important - the closure will cause major disruption to the kids environment, friends, and progression to school. It means that if Lucy is placed in another village, it is possible she won’t be going to school with the friends she had made. It would also cause a major nuisance to the school run - dropping of Emily to Ellon Primary and then travelling to another playgroup outwith the town, all at the same time!”

A letter to the parents, dated in December and sent out in January stated that the decision to re-align early years provision would have an “impact” on the playgroup - nothing clearly stated about “closure”.

“The communication from Aberdeenshire Council to the parents has been horrific - nothing has been highlighted to us in the past few years that funding has been an issue - we have never been given an opportunity to help out, the closure has come so suddenly,” she said.

Parent Kerry Pearce told the Times: “I don’t drive, so this is an issue for me. If my children get placed outwith Ellon, this is an impossibility - even if they get placed to somewhere in the town, like Auchterellon - I still have to walk with the children from my home in Castle Park, it is not practical.”

A petition has been handed out amongst parents and will be placed in local businesses around the town in the next few weeks. If you would like to help Ellon Community Centre Playgroup in their fight to stay open, a petition is available to sign in the Ellon Times Office on Bridge Street. (Just to note, The Ellon Times does not take a stand one way or the other on political issues)

Cllr Isobel Davidson, and Vice-Chair of the Education Learning and Leisure Committee told the Times: “I am sorry that Ellon Playgroup is to close this summer and other local Playgroups at Balmedie and Potterton will have commissioned places withdrawn next year, which means that they are likely to close too.

“There is a complicated system in place as the local Community Development Group (CDG) administer the funding and recharge Aberdeenshire Council for staff wages which means that they heavily subsidise the playgroups. This is historic as playgroups were community led and supported by Community Learning Staff.

“The Council at the time helped out by employing the staff but over the years this has become unmanageable. The CDG can no longer subsidise the Playgroup and the Council should not be employing the staff on its behalf so it has to close. Aberdeenshire Council runs Nurseries not Playgroups, which should be community led.”

“I hope that parents can get together and provide an alternative and I, and the Council will give them all the help we can. I also have, and will continue to seek reassurance that children in the more urban areas will be placed within easy travelling distance of their homes,” she said.

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