FAIRY TALE Chiddingstone Castle provides a magical venue for a nursery

A NURSERY based in Chiddingstone Castle is facing closure because it cannot find a volunteer to run its committee of trustees.

Chiddingstone Nursery School, sited in stunning surroundings, has been given ‘outstanding’ reports by Ofsted twice in the last eight years.

The loss of the valuable rural resource would mean nine jobs lost and see 40 toddlers having to be relocated further afield.

However, there is hope on the horizon. The job vacancy for Chairman has been running for nine months and was set to expire on Friday (June 23). 

At the last minute three candidates put their names forward, and the pre-school is hoping more applications will arrive before they vote on candidates on June 29.

The predicament they find themselves in is one that is becoming more common as the public appetite for voluntary work diminishes. 

The outgoing Chairman, Zoe St Pierre, has been in the post for five years. She said: “The way the charity is set up, the trustees have full financial liability for the nursery. 

“When we started 15 years ago, it used to be squash and a biscuit and mum came back after a couple of hours. We had a turnover of £20,000 a year and very limited liability.

“We used to be under the umbrella of the village’s primary school, but we transferred to charitable status to have more independence.”

Now, ironically, that freedom has proved to be a burden. “The nursery has morphed into a business run on a voluntary basis,” added Ms St Pierre. “The Chairman is an employer of nine staff and responsible for payroll, pensions, many things.”

The 49-year-old mother of two added that regulations had also changed the role: “In addition, the requirements of Ofsted have changed enormously in terms of safeguarding the children.

“It’s a lot of responsibility now, for a voluntary position, and young mothers are only with us for two years. 

“In the wider community we have experienced the same problem. We have tried to recruit from among the primary school’s parents but with no luck. People are reluctant to take on the role.”

The nursery’s trustees want to avoid having to remodel it and change its status once more for fear of losing prospective customers. 

“We could close down the charity and set up a new one, but that would mean we would lose our Ofsted status. Our two ‘outstanding’ awards are our USP.”

If you would like to enquire about the role, call the nursery on 01892 871315 or email chiddnursery@btconnect.com