Link and Learn Pre-School has reopened at Toothill Farm Centre on Bodiam Drive, the problem is, it doesn’t have enough children.
The group had to leave Link Centre to make way for redevelopment of the community suite into a giant gym. Luckily, Toothill Farm, which is owned by Swindon Council was available. It provided a home for a playgroup for many years in the 1980s and 1990s during the West Swindon pre-school population boom years, but has been mainly used by youth clubs for the last ten years.
Because of the uncertainty in the early summer about the future of Link and Learn, parents made other arrangements for their children, but playgroup supervisor Gilly Betts says the farm has been an ideal place to move to. “We’re glad we can provide more pre-school provision in Toothill. We have a large room where we can make good use of the large stock of toys and educational resources we’ve collected over the 21 years we were at Link Centre; there’s a separate room for messy play, and a lovely big garden with a playhouse. There’s a lot more space compared to Link, and the garden is a bonus.
“But we need children to enjoy what we can offer. Because, apart from the space, the five staff have tremendous experience and most of us have been involved with Link and Learn for over ten years.”
As a demonstration of their commitment, most of the staff spent a lot of their summer holidays bringing the farm back into a condition suitable for a pre-school. As the facility had been used for youth activities, it required a great deal of work to make it fit-for-purpose. Unfortunately an offer from a Swindon business to help out came to nothing and the five playgroup workers and members of their families had to pitch in to clean down the walls and ceiling and repaint every surface to turn a rather dark, heavily graffitied space, into a bright welcoming environment. Some walls required five layers of paint to obliterate the examples of street art.
Outdoors, the garden which hadn’t been used for years required intensive effort to make it safe. Rubbish was removed and brambles cut back from around fire exits and the perimeter fence.
“The farm required a lot of TLC,” said Gilly. “It needed a great deal of hard work and we had to dip into our reserves to pay for all the paint, a stairgate, carpets, a new advertising banner and fencing for outdoors. But it’s lovely and just how we want it for the children to enjoy.
“Karen, Tina, Annalisa and Mandy have worked so hard to bring us through uncertain times, and we’d like to thank CarpetRite for a good deal and former parent Jamie Seagrove for laying it, Lis Moore and Kelly Lambourne who painted with us, the parents who helped us move Neil and Charlotte Hinder and Zak Ghoumari who provided the van to move all our equipment and helped carry everything.”
To enquire about places, call 07531 133448 or mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Pictured above and below, Link and Learn playgroup staff at Toothill Farm, Karen Portsmith, Tina Hendry, Gilly Betts, Annalisa Amoroso, Mandy Morris
Big Coffee Morning in aid of Macmillan Cancer Care Friday 7 October, 11am to 12.20pm,
Toothill Farm, Bodiam Drive, Swindon SN5 8BE
Drop in for coffee and cakes, meet Link and Learn staff and view the facilities