Nursery closure heartbreak

Heartbroken Dawn Cordner is closing her Aylsham’s children’s nursery on Friday (August 16) because she says government-funded “free” places have made it unviable

Dawnie’s Little Stars, based in the Drill Hall for almost seven years, is the only business of its kind in Aylsham and parents will now have to look outside the town for similar care, according to Dawn, 42.

The closure will mean the loss of seven jobs, including Dawn’s.

She has been in the childcare business for 17 years, previously working for the former Aylsham Playgroup. When its committee disbanded, Dawn saved the service by launching her Little Stars nursery.

Dawn said she had taken the “very, very hard” decision to close because of the increasing gulf between the amount of money the business received from funded places and her ever-increasing running costs.

Parents of three and four year olds are entitled to “free” nursery places funded by the government and paid to nurseries, via the local authority, at the rate of £3.65 per hour,

Some two-year-old are also entitled to free, funded places,  with nurseries receiving £5.20 per hour to care for them.

But Dawn said the true cost of providing care was much higher and her business had been forced to plunder its meagre profits to make up the deficit and stay afloat.

She charged non-funded places at £7.50 per hour for three and four year olds, and £8 an hour for babies, reflecting the true cost of providing quality child care.

Now, with 75pc of the 30 children on roll qualifying for funded places, Dawn said she simply couldn’t afford to carry on.

“It’s exhausting trying to run a business when all the overheads are going up but the funding stays the same. I’m taking less and less and it just can’t go on,” she explained.

“The team works very hard and very long hours for the  minimum wage (£8.21 per hour). We love the children and the nursery’s reputation is second-to-none – but it doesn’t pay the bills. Dog walkers and cleaners earn more than us. We’re providing a champagne service for lemonade money.”

Parents had been sad but very understanding when they learned of the nursery’s closure.

“They wonder what the government is thinking of, allowing this situation to happen,” said Dawn.

“I am so sorry and so sad that I’ve had to do this. This has been my life and my passion but the worry has badly affected my health over the past two years and I had to take this heartbreaking decision. I’ve no idea what I will do next.”

Pictured: Dawn Cordner (centre) with Shining Stars room leader June Crook (left) and deputy manager Becky Rayner.

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