How parent power halted the closure of a Norwich pre-school

The Norwich Montessori School in Colney celebrate receiving its outstanding Ofsted report in 2015.

The Norwich Montessori School in Colney celebrate receiving its outstanding Ofsted report in 2015. Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

A display of determination from parents in Norwich has halted the closure of a pre-school.

Sarah Johnson, owner and manager of the Norwich Montessori School, wrote to parents in mid-August to say that ongoing funding pressure had forced her to make the difficult decision to close.

But parents weren't prepared to let the school, which is based at the Colney Parish Room on Old Watton Road, go without a fight, with a group of six coming together to form a plan.

With 'overwhelming' support of other families, they said, the school will now remain open for this year - with parents agreeing to help wherever they can, be it administrative work or maintaining gardens.

Parent Clare Morton-Thomas said: 'It is going to be an awful lot of hard work, but we want to help so Sarah can focus on what she's passionate about, supporting children in a very nurturing, enriching environment.

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'The support we've had from other parents has been overwhelming. Children absolutely thrive there and we wouldn't want to lose that.'

Early years providers around the country have been faced with rising costs, less cash and changing goalposts in the last few years. It was worsened in September when the government doubled its free childcare allowance for many three and four-year-olds.

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The hourly rate received by providers from the council often leaves them at a loss - and they are not allowed to ask for top-up funding to meet the shortfall.

'It just piles on the pressure,' Mrs Morton-Thomas said. 'Adequate funding is just not offered.'

But the parents hope to find other ways to support the nursery financially, including an online fundraising page, fundraisers and, they hope, support from the local community.

The school, which was rated outstanding by Ofsted in 2015, practices Montessori teaching, based on the principles of Maria Montessori.

She believed children under the age of six learn and develop best when given independence and freedom.

To support the school, click here.

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