I never cease to be amazed by the determination, the commitment, the altruism of folk across the East Midlands who are prepared to work their socks off for the benefit of their local communities. These indeed are Edmund Burke’s Little Platoons. We should thank heaven for them. And there could hardly be a more important benefit than the care and education of our children, which is the example I saw this morning.
I went down to Kings Sutton, near Banbury. I was a little worried that it has an OX Postcode, but a quick check revealed that it is, indeed, in Northamptonshire, and therefore on my East Midlands patch. There, next door to the Co-Op, I found the Kings Sutton Primary School, which recently gained Academy Status. And tucked away behind it, in the former school canteen, was the Kings Sutton Pre-School Playgroup, who had invited me to visit them.
While the Primary School is State-Funded, the Play Group is a registered charity. They receive indirect state funding based on the government’s child-care allowances, but these barely cover basic staff costs. All the other costs have to be met through fund-raising.
The have up to 26 toddlers at any one time, and forty or so enrolled through the year (some do mornings, others afternoons). Most go on eventually to the school next door. But the former canteen is their problem. It is very crowded and cramped, and after decades of repair it may not last much longer. Besides, with up to a hundred new homes planned for the village, the Primary School may need to expand, and would need the space.
The group has been around a long time. There is some question over the exact date of foundation, but the consensus seems to be 1965 — the year I graduated from University. They moved into the current building in 1990, nearly a quarter of a century ago. And therein lies the problem. The Group urgently needs, and is determined to create, a new, purpose-built building for the Play Group. They have two potential sites, both very close to the existing site.
They had invited me to ask for my support, to add to their already formidable file of encouraging letters from prominent local people. This of course I am happy to give. But they also felt that with my 30+ years of business experience, I might be able to advise on seeking corporate sponsorship. I offered what advice I could, although I have to admit that they’d already thought the issues through and seemed to have a pretty good idea what to do.
Of course the possibility of EU funding also came up (in fact I think I raised it). I am not very sanguine about the prospect, but I have promised to check it out and see if any funding lines might be available. (Given the amount of our net contributions to Brussels, I’m all in favour of getting a few bob back where we can). But all credit to Lisa, Glen, Wendy and the rest of the staff, and to Treasurer Stephen Hanlon. I wish them well, and was proud to meet them.