Church to turf out top class pre-school

PUBLISHED: 10:23 08 July 2010 | UPDATED: 18:05 25 August 2010

Parents are appalled at a decision to replace an outstanding Ofsted-rated pre-school with an IT training centre.

Parents are "appalled" at a decision to replace an 'outstanding' Ofsted-rated pre-school with an IT training centre.

The owner of Picardy Pre-School, Picardy Road, Belvedere, which is run from Belvedere and Erith Congregational church hall, has been told that her contract to continue to run the school at the hall will not be renewed from December this year.

Instead, the church hall will be converted into a training room fitted with computers.

Ten members of staff and 80 children will now have to search for an alternative preschool if a new location is not found.

Karen West,55, of Raglan Road, Belvedere, began working at the pre-school in 1998 and bought the business in 1994. It received an 'outsanding' rating in its latest Ofsted report.

She said: "It's absolutely appalling what they're doing. I'm teaching the children of children that were there when I started.

"We've developed the school over the years. This place is my life.

"It's what I've been doing for the last 22 years and loving every minute of it. There are not enough child care facilities in the borough."

Anxious parents are now frantically searching for alternative places for their

children but have been hindered because the deadline for applications was in March and April, months before they were informed of the imminent closure.

Events manager Stuart Howitt, 40, of North Road, Belvedere, whose three-yearold daughter Kiara attends the school, said: "All the parents and staff are quite shocked and dismayed by this. I don't know how it

would benefit the community. This church should be at the heart of the community which it has been over the years.

"It's a concern all round. If it closes, everyone loses their jobs and our kids lose their places."

Thamesmead and Erith MP, Teresa Pearce, has been contacted by anxious parents and prioritised finding a new home for the school.

She said: "My immediate concern is to ensure that all the current users of the preschool retain a similar provision throughout the next academic year.

"My office, along with the Belvedere ward councillors, is therefore continuing to discuss with the council what support can be given to find the pre-school a new home.

"They are also in contact with a number of local community organisations in the hope that a suitable premises can be found."

A spokesperson for Belvedere and Erith Congregational church said: "The Church membership has decided not to renew the contract of Mrs Karen West and we see it as a private matter,

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