EGM - Questions and Answers
Last updated Friday 24th July 2020 by Stuart W
To submit a question please email or telephone our 24 hour EGM question line on 01480 200 828 and leave a message. We will aim to answer all relevant questions to the best extent that we can and publish them in this list prior to our EGM on Friday 7th August 2020.
Doesn’t Wheatfields School already run Wheatfields Nursery?
No. The nursery is a separate organisation. It is a charity, managed by a committee of volunteers. The property is not owned by the school even though it sits on school land. The volunteers on the committee are responsible for all aspects of the management of the nursery, from recruitment and maintenance, right down to paying staff and making sure the bins get emptied!
My child is going to start school in September 2020. Why am I being asked to vote as my child has left nursery?
The constitutional nursery year runs from 1st September 2019 to 31st August 2020. Therefore, you are still considered a member of the nursery association so you are entitled to vote. The decision may not effect you but please consider voting to support future children coming through nursery.
My child is going to start school in September 2021. How will they be affected?
If the proposals are accepted, when your child returns to nursery in September there will be no difference to nursery and the commitee will still be in charge of the management of nursery. The proposed transfer date is 2nd November, straight after half term. The nursery will carry on with the same staff and the same children with the same hours. This is largely a background management change. It is worth noting that irrelevant to whether the school or the nursery committee are in charge, any families that have not opted for all mornings, all afternoons or full time and chosen a "bespoke" range of sessions, these have only been guaranteed for this term and inthe event of increased demand it may be necessary to move to all mornings or all afternoons or full time from January. These school are very likely to continue this policy.
My child is going to start school in September 2022. How will they be affected?
If your child has been offered a place at nursery this will continue to be honoured. We have already reduced capacity for 2 year olds at the nursery due to overstaffing leading to significant losses. In the future the school may choose to change provision for 2 year olds, just like the current committee can, but children already with a place can keep that place. The same conditions that the current committee have imposed about choosing all mornings or all afternoons will very likely be continued by the school - so if you have picked particular sessions you may be asked to choose from all mornings or all afternoons from January if an inrease in demand makes this necessary.
Why have the committee made this decision?
The nursery made over £17,000 in losses for the year 2018/19. A full financial accounts are published on the charity commission website. Such a huge loss cannot be repeated as it would at some point force the nursery to close immediately, due to lack of funds. It is only because of reserves from previous years that the nursery has been able to stay open. As an unincorporated association, members of the committee are the trustees of the charity and currently hold personal liability for any debt the charity gets in to. Therefore the committee are looking at the best way forward so the nursery can be sustainable in the long term.
Will the nursery need to suddenly close like Burleigh Hill Nursery?
No. We are currently a well-financed solvent nursery. Our committee have worked tirelessly to resolve some of the issues of previous years and we will be in surplus this year, recovering last year’s losses and adding to our reserves even though we have had significant additional expenses and lower incomes due to Covid-19. However, due to unpredictable patterns in demand for childcare from parents/carers, it is not possible to rule out moving back into losses in future years, which the committee are desperate to avoid.
Can’t we just get more parents on committee and carry on as we are?
Yes we could, but much has changed since the nursery first opened in 1982. Numerous changes in employment legislation, workplace compliance and Ofsted curriculum expectations mean a small group of volunteers are now essentially running quite a complex small business which is both demanding and time consuming. The number of parents willing to serve on committee has been falling for years, and we have had almost no interest in new parents joining in the last couple of years in particular. It is a huge ask – to essentially volunteer to help run a small business and potentially be involved in recruitment, maintenance, performance management, employment disputes and other complicated legal matters. We think volunteering for your child’s nursery should mean baking a few cakes for the cake stall, or donating a prize to the raffle, not spending hours every week in complex administrative tasks.
So how would the school be able to do it better?
If the school were to take on nursery provision, it would be up to them how to run it. However, nursery staff would be employees of the school and all the complicated aspects of running a nursery that volunteers were juggling is handed over to professionals. The school office would likely handle payments and paperwork, the headteacher would deal with any concerns, and staff would fit into a formal structure of line management and appraisals, managed by skilled professionals rather than well-meaning but amateur volunteers. Staff are also likely to have improved access to professional development opportunities. Your committee believe this would be better for all concerned.
What would happen to the current staff if the school were to take over?
Employment legislation is very clear. Current staff would be protected by something called the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) legislation, known as TUPE. Current nursery staff would see their salary, working hours, pension and conditions protected. The specific role they may have in the nursery could vary depending on how to school plan to structure preschool provision, but they will not suffer materially from any such change.
What would school-run nursery provision look like?
The school are proposing to run the nursery under something called "Section-27 community powers" – these powers allow schools to provide any charitable purpose (such as early education) for the benefit of families of pupils at the school, or families who live or work in the locality of the school. It would essentially remain a separate charitable entity controlled by the school.
Can the committee just decide to give up and transfer the nursery to school on their own?
No. As a charity, we are committee-led but essentially member controlled. We have called an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) and agree to close the charity. This would require at least 10% of members to attend the meeting and need a two thirds majority to vote in favour of closure. Families of a child attending nursery would get 1 vote, as would current committee members.
What would happen to any cash and other assets held by the nursery if we were to close?
Charity law is very strict. It can only be transferred to another charity with similar charitable aims to ours. Therefore, any reserves and assets that are transferred cannot get consumed into a general school pot. It would need to be ring-fenced for use by the preschool, which in reality would probably mean the school setting up new charitable accounts specifically for this purpose.
I have another question not mentioned here. Who can I ask?
Please email our dedicated email address and a committee member will endeavour to add them to this online list.
THE COMMITTEE REALLY NEED TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK! ALL FEEDBACK IS WELCOME 24 hour voicemail comment and feedback line 01480 200 828