Families' fears over 'devastating' potential closure of affordable playgroup

The group, which supports 27 families in the city, is set to lose its home by the end of 2024 due to the church being sold off.

An Edinburgh playgroup that provides support to almost 30 families is facing closure.

Leith St Andrews Playgroup, operating from St Andrew’s Church on Easter Road, provides “affordable and high quality” care for children aged between two and five.

But the amalgamation of churches means their premises is set to shut after more than 50 years – meaning nine staff could be made redundant.

Parents say they are worried they may struggle to find affordable childcare elsewhere in the local area.

Mum Jenna Leburn told STV News: “It’s not just a normal nursery setting. They’re so supportive.

“I honestly have no Plan B, I don’t know what I would do. It’s really affordable as well.”

Families are worried they will struggle to find affordable childcare elsewhere

“It will be a huge loss. This is a full-day provision. It’s really affordable. You’ll be taking something away from the community,” Julie King said.

Donna Laidlaw added: “I’ve been to a couple of council nurseries. This is second to none – especially as a single parent of twins. They’ve helped me so much.”

The playgroup delivers 1,140 funded hours, having piloted the early learning and childcare scheme in 2018.

The majority of spaces are council funded, but support eight fee paying families charging just £30 a day for 7.5 hours of childcare.

The building, owned by the Church of Scotland, will be sold off next year – with the playgroup set to lose their premises in early 2025.

Manager Louise Kelly said the staff are “absolutely devastated” by the news and is worried for the children in their care.

The playgroup supports 27 families in the local area

“We are always full with quite a long waiting list. We get phone calls every week and I have to turn parents away,” she said.

“I don’t think anywhere in the area has fees like we have. Around 75% of children here are council funded. I don’t know where these pre-school children would go.”

The playgroup has a year to find another home – but despite an extensive search, they’ve had no luck so far.

Louise said: “We’ve exhausted everywhere. We’ve been in touch with council for spaces and grants to build a purpose-built pod or something.

“Even if we do find somewhere, it’ll need to be in the next six months. We’d need care inspection regulations – these things take time.

Playgroup manager Louise Kelly

“We’re trying to put this out there to anyone that is willing to help us find somewhere.”

City of Edinburgh Council says its currently looking into sites across its estate to accommodate the playgroup, it will do its best to secure an alternative location.

Education, Children and Families Convener, Councillor Joan Griffiths said: “It’s regrettable that Leith St Andrews Playgroup are having to move from their current premises.

“We’re currently looking into sites across our estate to accommodate this group, and will be in regular contact with them going forward. Supporting our youngest learners is one of our key priorities and we will do our best to secure an alternative location.”

A spokesperson for the Church of Scotland said: “We can confirm that the Leith St Andrews Church is on the list of buildings to be released by the end of 2024.”

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