Gosport's Little Crickets pre-school determined to stay open amid cost of living crisis
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Little Crickets Pre-school in Bridgemary, Gosport, opened in September of last year and owners, Leigh Dunlop and Zoe St John, have been striving towards making their business a great addition to the local community.
The school, which is based in The Empower Centre, is eco-friendly and the pair have fully utilised what they have got to make the setting perfect for children who love to be outdoors. They are also eager to see more SEN children in their school as they both have experience with children who have additional needs such as ADHD and autism.
Unfortunately, the brand new pre-school has found that the cost of living crisis and lack of financial support has seriously affected their business, and without the numbers of children on their books, they will not be able to survive for the next school year in September.
Leigh said: ‘We are just seeing such low numbers and it is down to the crisis and the impact that it is having on small businesses catastrophic and everyone is in the same boat but it is different for schools because they are funded. Early years settings are really struggling.
‘If this continues like this, we won’t be open in September. We have got families who have already asked about starting then because their finances will come through, but we may not be open.
‘It would just be an absolute crying shame to lose us.’
Leigh explained that many parents are either still working from home or simply cannot afford the cost of sending their children to pre-school because the government help is not enough to meet the costs of the providers.
An Ofsted survey found that 5,400 early years settings closed down in the space of a year from August 2021, and it is forecast that this could just be the beginning. A number of early year settings have been struggling, but as a new business, the pair are desperate to make their dream work and maintain their community links.
They have been working every hour possible, without any wages, to try and make this school work and they are determined to keep providing the best early years education for the children on their books.
Leigh said: ‘We’re going to fight to keep our doors open.
‘We are here and we want people to use us and I don’t think a huge amount of people even know we are here.
‘We just want to be different and we knew what we did and didn’t want to be like and now that it is up and running it is amazing, we just need the support and numbers.’