Happy Feet had been in operation for 5 years when in May of 2014 a loss of premises and poor Ofsted inspection resulted in the nursery committee deciding to suspend its services with immediate effect.
This was to give them time to review the business- however with no alternative premises available and limited funding the future of the setting did not look great!
With full support of the locals, Leedstown Primary School and parents who stepped up to join the committee all approached Cornwall Councils Early Years Improvement team for help.
They received backing from local councillor, Loveday Jenkins and local MP Andrew George and with this the committee spent the remainder of 2014 organising new premises, applying successfully for grants and establishing an action plan to address OFSTED’s concerns. This included a full review of policies and procedures as well as updated training for staff and committee members.
The committee and head teacher of Leedstown Primary School worked with the local Planning Department and the Department for Education to secure permission to use an area of the school field for new premises and managed to secure the donation of a suitable portable building from the nearby St Keverne School on the Lizard, who needed to clear it to make way for their own building work.
They also received a generous donation from local building firm R G Kellow, who offered them support in transporting and refurbishing the building as well as donating some materials for the build.
Local businesses rallied to support the setting with County Carpets and Gwinear Farmer providing materials, equipment and labour. Family and friends of those working to reopen the setting supported their efforts, helping out over the Christmas period to ensure everything was in place for the reopening in January.
After the reopening, Ofsted carried out another inspection, and the pre-school were awarded a “good” – the highest rating they could have been awarded after their previous inspection.
Early Years Senior Improvement Officer, Carol Kimberley, said: “The Early Years Improvement Team are delighted at the new start for Happy Feet at Leedstown School. The pre-school has worked incredibly hard in the last year, with wonderful support from their local school and the parents in the community, in order to establish a new pre-school building and facilities.”
“This is a testament to the enthusiasm and perseverance of all concerned who have all worked to improve the quality of provision for young children in the area. We wish everyone concerned all the best for the future and feel sure that all children will benefit from the new pre-school provision.”
The pre-school manager, Debbie Lockitt, added:
“Happy Feet has a determined team that includes an active committee who have worked very closely with many outside agencies. As manager, I’m extremely excited that we have taken this giant leap in the provision of Early Years education. Thank you to all involved in helping us achieve this.”
Headteacher at Leedstown Primary School, Nicola Neale, worked closely with the pre-school throughout and contributed financially to make the new premises possible. She said: “As a small community school, we have always worked very hard to maintain strong links with our pre-school. As a result of this, our children have very strong transition processes. It is wonderful that the pre-school are able operate so close to the school. We are thrilled with the recent Ofsted inspection result and look forward to continuing to enhance this.”
Chair of the voluntary committee that run Happy Feet, Louise Wilson, said: “The road to re-opening Happy Feet has been very tough going at times but the determination to save this essential local service for future generations kept us going.”
“We never imagined that we would be able to pull together such fantastic premises, and it’s wonderful to see the children thriving in their new environment. The hard work and perseverance of the staff, committee and all those who have helped has been truly inspirational and a great example of what a determined community working together can achieve, against the odds.”