Local parents are devastated to learn that their children’s play group facilities are to cease on Thursday (December 1).
Operating out of Inverurie Community Centre are the Inbetweenies and the Messy Play Group which parents see as a vital part of their children’s development, providing social skills and education to children before they go on to take up their commissioned place in local school nurseries.
The closure also means redundancy for group leader Fiona Day who was instrumental in starting the community-led groups in the wake of Aberdeenshire Council’s cost-cutting initiatives.
Behind the scenes, everything is being done to save the popular pre-school provision, with meetings taking place at the Community Centre today (Thursday) at 2pm and at 6.30pm.
Inverurie and District Councillor, Martin Kitts-Hayes said: “I was made aware of the situation with the Inbetweeners and Messy Play Groups last week at the meeting of the Community Development Group. It is clear that the Groups are very popular with parents in Inverurie and provide an invaluable service. I have been working with senior staff in the Education, Leisure and Learning Service to find a solution that will enable the Groups to continue.
At this point I can confirm that the Education, Leisure and Learning Service have agreed to commence recruitment of a temporary session worker. The session worker will essentially look at how the family learning aspect of the service can be developed. There may be some changes to the existing provision until recruitment can be completed but I have been assured by the Service that they will work with Community Centre staff to minimise disruption to the best of their ability in the interim”.
But play leader, Fiona Day asks: “Why can I not be redeployed into the job I’m doing already?” Continuing she said: “The position has been made redundant due to the Early Years Review and that is why we started up the Inbetweenies and the Messy Play group.
“I am very disappointed and sad that it has come to this. The support we provide for the families is invaluable. The Community Centre is the first port of call for provision for the under fives and even the health visitors will point them in this direction.”
Wendy McCann, mum of three-year-old twins Jessica and Olivia explained: “Everybody is really concerned about the effect the closure will have on the community as our children won’t have a playgroup facility in this area.
“Inverurie is a growing family town with new people coming in all the time. It seems ridiculous to close down a playgroup facility under the circumstances.
“The centre has the room and the equipment to run the factility, but I believe the reason the role of leader is being made redundant is for structural reasons. The kids love Fiona and she does an amazing job.”
Joanna Bruce, whose daughter Abbie, also three, echoed Wendy’s words and added: “The playgroup is a brilliant communtiy resource and we should do everything to save it. My daughter has benefitted hugely from it.”
“The playgroup is a brilliant communtiy resource and we should do everything we can to save it.”
Director of Education, Learning and Leisure for Aberdeenshire Council, Maria Walker said: “We are aware of concerns regarding the loss of this post and are exploring opportunities to continue the sessions in the New Year.
“These groups are not part of the council’s core early years provision and were developed locally in order to support adult learning.
“While the council recognises the importance of groups like these and will continue to work with parents to support community-led provisions, we must also focus on the delivery of core services.”