1.Why is the nursery closing?

Unfortunately, keeping attendance at viable levels has been a challenge in recent years, and now, like many nurseries throughout the country, the pandemic has made operations unsustainable.

Despite all best efforts, there is not enough take up of nursery places and we have been operating at a financial loss through 2020 due to the wide reaching social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

2. Isn’t this a bit sudden? I have seen adverts online and in the newspapers.

We have recently increased our advertising allowance in a bid to fill more childcare placements. However, many local families have been adapting to changes in their own circumstances from furlough to redundancy, to setting up their own support bubbles, which might include childcare arrangements. As a result, we are not meeting the financial requirements we need in order to stay in business.

3.You mention the service “has been operating at a financial loss” What does this mean?

Like all non-maintained nurseries, TiggyWinkles has depended on combined income from childcare fees and government payments for childcare. The government payments cover expenses such as staff costs but do not include other operational fees (such as meals, resources and upkeep).

Therefore, income from childcare fees played a vital role to stay in business. However, professional childcare is an expense more and more families simply cannot stretch to, and the take up of placements at the nursery has been below optimum for some time.

In addition, this past year has been a testing time for nurseries all over the country due to the wide-reaching effects of the pandemic, where demand for childcare has slumped.

After a temporary closure during the first lockdown (and subsequent hiatus in income), TiggyWinkles stayed open from July 2020 to serve the community – but take up of childcare provision was too low.

As a result, we are not meeting the financial requirements we need in order to stay in business, and it is with a heavy heart that we announce our closure.

4. Why not put the fees up to stay open?

We are heavily reliant on childcare fees on top of the government payment for qualifying families of up to 30 hours a week of childcare. 

There is a national trend this year of increasing fees to compensate for a slump in childcare demand during the pandemic – however, we must be sensitive to community need in the context of the socio-economic status of Castle Vale. As such, we have always kept fees to a minimum, in order to support local families as much as possible.  Putting up our fees to compensate for losses during the past year was not a realistic prospect for us.

5. Doesn’t the government subsidise nursery places?  Why is that not enough to keep the nursery open? 

Yes, but the government subsidy only covers a proportion of the service we offer – it covers the direct cost of childcare staff but the funding allocation does not cover the total business costs, so nurseries such as ours are heavily reliant on nursery fees on top of the government subsidy. 

6. Can’t you get financial support from the government, as it has been COVID? 

We did look into these options during our investigations but unfortunately, there were no appropriate funding options that our nursery was eligible for.

7. What about the campaign for better funding for nursery provision?

This relates to statutory nursery provision not to the type of provision offered by TiggyWinkles and similar operations (non-maintained nurseries).

8. Why were parents not told about this sooner?

We shared the news as soon as we were able to. We wanted to give our staff and colleagues the courtesy of hearing the news first with the opportunity to provide feedback, then we informed parents soon after. We hope that the end of July closure will provide everybody with a suitable notice period in order to make alternative arrangements for their children. We will continue to offer our staff and parents as much support as possible.

9. When will the nursery actually close?

The nursery will close at the end of Friday 30 July 2021. We wanted to give parents suitable notice to make alternative arrangements for their children and will offer all the support we can.

10. How will I find another nursery place for my child?

Our team will do all they can to prepare the children for transferring to a new nursery setting, and we will provide parents with information about local childcare services. We are providing an information pack and liaising with the new nurseries regarding transition.

11. What about the nursery staff?

We are working hard to support our employees and will be providing a package of support and advice to assist them with finding new employment.

12. Will the nursery continue to run ‘business as usual’ until the end of July?

We guarantee that nothing will be removed or affected in the lead up to the nursery’s closure. We are committed to making the last few months a celebration of the nursery’s great history.

13. Will I be refunded my placement fee?

Placement fees will be charged in line with the attendance of your child and the agreed end date.

14. How can we save the nursery?

We have spent time seeking and doing due diligence for partnerships with other local and national providers, in a bid to save our nursery from closure, but unfortunately none have come to fruition. 

15. Will a new nursery open up at Pegasus School?

Not to our knowledge.

16. What are the council doing to help?

Birmingham City Council has supported us to consider our operations but TiggyWinkles was a non-maintained nursery; therefore did not fall under the BCC’s remit for maintained nursery schools, which are funded and controlled by the local authority.

17. What has The Pioneer Group done to help?

In 2017, the (then) Merlin Board approached The Pioneer Group to see if the organisation could incorporate TiggyWinkles into its key strategies in order to sustain its operations. Since then, the Group have worked hard with our team at TiggyWinkles supporting and developing a viable operating model. This included closure of one of our two nurseries; a reduction in staff numbers; and an altered business plan to try to save costs.  This was in the light of the national crisis of nursery funding causing financial difficulties childcare providers throughout the UK even before the additional challenges of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted a range of services within the Group, particularly those outside core business of housing.  A number of assets, including community centres, Castle Vale Stadium and TiggyWinkles Day Nursery, have all been badly affected due to the restrictions on meeting up with others, on sport and social events.  

The Pioneer Group has made a significant financial contribution to TiggyWinkles in the last 12 months, to help keep the nursery afloat and because of its importance to offer high quality nursery provision in Castle Vale.

18. The Pioneer Group is a significantly sized social business; why can’t they subsidise the nursery until times are more stable?

While The Pioneer Group has supported TiggyWinkles until now, unfortunately there are limitations. Legally, as The Pioneer Group is a non-registered charity, is not allowed to financially support a loss-making business that is not part of its core charitable objectives.

19. I chose TiggyWinkles because it’s not financially driven; it is aimed at providing a quality service.

We could not agree more and we are very proud of the legacy that our nursery will leave. We have been privileged to work with a wonderful team that has been dedicated to providing a high quality service to the community over the past 20 years. The nursery has a great history and the decision to close it was a very difficult one for everyone concerned.

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