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(en) UK, Walthamstow Anarchist UNDERDOG #9 - Defend our pre-schools

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 30 Jun 2004 05:38:15 +0200 (CEST)

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On Thursday 6th May a meeting involving
parents and workers from seven Preschools
and playgroups across the Borough took
place, setting up the "Waltham Forest
Playgroup Support Group". The meeting
had been called by parents and workers
at Shernhall pre-school in Walthamstow,
in response to problems that pre-schools
are currently facing in the Borough.

Pre-schools, originally set up by parents them-
selves, offer sessions where children can play
and learn together in a safe environment. For
decades, they have existed as part of the voluntary
sector on small grants from the Council and also on
direct Government funding for children over 3 years.
But many pre-schools are now facing fi-
nancial problems: Staff wages are being cut
and fees raised in some playgroups.
In addition to this, in February, a report
from Voluntary Action Walthamstow has
warned of pre-schools being under a
threat from a new "commissioning" proc-
ess to be introduced next year. In the
Report they warn: "Commissioning changes
the process from a community led proc-
ess to a process where grants are rewarded
based on the needs of the council" and
warns: "the fear is that small groups are
likely to lose out in favour of bigger groups."

Important start
As well as agreeing to form a permanent
organisation to defend playgroups and pre-
schools the meeting also agreed to start
finding out about the commissioning proc-
ess and also to help out any pre-school
that was in difficulties by applying pres-
sure on the Council.

The meeting was significantly important in
a number of ways. It was the first time
that workers other from across the Bor-
ough had met each other, and many had
common problems. This is an important
start. People at the meeting felt strongly
that workers and parents must work together
to support each other. This is in
sharp contrast to Waltham Forest's agenda,
which - thorough the commissioning system
threatens to force voluntary groups to compete
against each other for funding from the

It's hard to make sense of the complex web of
funding and grant systems. But there are
some certainties. One is that it's wrong for
playgroups and pre-schools, and all other serv-
ices, to be struggling financially while
councillors keep congratulating each
other about how good services are in the
Borough. Most of us can see through
Councillor's Spin-doctoring. We know that
they're short-changing us. The first step
in cutting through all of this, making sense
of what is happening to our services, and
doing something about it ourselves, is to
start organising and fighting together -
Nobody else is going to do it for us.

Get involved!
If you're a parent or worker involved a
voluntary sector pre-school, playgroup or
toy library, you are very welcome to come
to the next meeting, which will be on 7.30
pm, Thursday June 23rd Rose and Crown
Pub, Upstairs Room, 53-55 Hoe Street.
If you want any more information about
the Waltham Forest Playgroup Support
Group you can contact them via Shernhall
Pre-school Tel: 020 8520 6756

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