Pentyrch Village Hall Credit: Jaggery
Pentyrch Village Hall where the Pentyrch Nursery is based. Credit: Jaggery

Pentyrch Nursery to close after 47 years – forcing two-year-olds outside village for care

The nursery has announced its closure after Cardiff Council began providing free childcare on a temporary basis

PENTYRCH Nursery will close down at the end of this term meaning some families will have to take their children outside the village for childcare for the first time in 47 years.

The nursery’s owner says the business cannot survive after Cardiff Council began providing free childcare at Pentyrch Primary School, which has drawn her customers away.

The council says it offered Mrs Lawrence the chance to move to the new facility but she chose not to.

“It is very sad. I am heartbroken,” said Victoria Lawrence.

“I have been here for 15 years. There are very few people who walk past and don’t call me ‘Aunty Tor’.”

Jo Wallace, a mother of two, has lived in Pentyrch for most of her life and went to the nursery herself. Her daughter, 13, went to the nursery and her son, four, is currently there. Ms Wallace said the announcement of its closure was “shocking to everyone”. 

“If you live in the village, you will know someone who went there,” she said. 

Why has Pentyrch Nursery closed?

The nursery, which announced its closure on Facebook, is based in Pentyrch Village Hall and provides 40% of the property’s income.

In January 2022, The Cardiffian reported proposals to expand Pentyrch Primary School, which included providing free nursery care at the modified school. This meant many parents moved their children from the paid-for Pentyrch Nursery in the village hall to currently-free Pentyrch Primary School nursery.

Pentyrch Councillor Andrea Gibson said: “The overheads for running a nursery are tremendous. There are many costs involved. This obviously dictates the cost to parents and if they can find free provision then they will more often than not opt for that. I think we are all feeling the financial pinch. 

“Balancing family and working life can be very difficult and very costly for parents. 

“It is a great pity for the area to lose such a well-established and valued provision. I am certain parents and children will feel the loss. Many local people feel pretty sad about the closure.” 

“We can’t compete with the free care”:

Victoria Lawrence, Pentyrch Nursery owner

In January 2022, Victoria Lawrence, Pentyrch Nursery’s owner, said: “The effect of this proposal being approved will be the closure of the Village Hall nursery which has been open in the village for 40 years.”

Ms Lawrence understands the parents’ decision to move their children to Pentyrch Primary and said: “We can’t compete with the free care.”

However, there are now going to be gaps in childcare provision in the village.

Pentyrch Nursery caters for two-year-olds but the nursery at the primary school can only accept three-year-olds.

“It is sad because all the two-year-olds will not have a nursery because the school only accepts three years and up,” said Ms Lawrence.  

“So, they will have to move further afield. It’s a big loss to the community.” 

Has Pentyrch Nursery been forced out of business?

When the proposal for the expansion of Pentyrch Primary was agreed, the council said that a wraparound scheme with Pentyrch Nursery could be put in place where the children could spend their mornings at the village hall and their afternoons at the school.

However, Ms Lawrence said no contract was signed and that the “whole process was negotiated in bad faith as they were aware it would have been almost impossible to sustain the business.”

Ms Lawrence said that in November, despite promising parents free nursery care at the upgraded school, the council set out a tender process to see if a private provider would take up the nursery care provision. This would mean that the free care that attracted parents from Pentyrch Nursery to the school might not not remain free.

However, the council have said: “Nursery education places will continue to be free. Wrap around care fees would be subject to discussion and agreement with any incoming childcare provider. This is intended to work in alignment with the childcare offer provided by Welsh Government through Cardiff Council for those eligible to receive it.”

Pentyrch Nursery was “excluded from (the tender process) despite written assurances we would be included,” says Ms Lawrence. The council denies that Pentyrch Nursery was excluded.

“The council have used their significant financial resources to alter the commercial childcare market in Pentyrch,” she said.

“They have offered ‘free’ childcare knowing firstly they cannot offer it long-term and are only offering it as a way to drive business away from the existing nursery and to make their tender process a more attractive proposition to bidders.” 

“Pentyrch Nursery has decided not to enter an agreement”: The full council statement

Cardiff Council denies that Pentyrch nursery was excluded from the tender process, stating that the owner did not want to agree to the deal that was offered.

“Pentyrch Nursery was invited to be part of the new full-day provision at Pentyrch Primary School providing nursery education and wrap-around childcare,” said a spokesperson for the council.

“This has not been available at a single setting in Pentyrch previously, resulting in high numbers of children commuting to other communities for nursery provision and later continuing with primary education at other schools.

“The Council is committed to establishing local nursery education and childcare to support local families, but has held extensive discussions with the proprietor of the Pentyrch Nursery to reach agreement to share facilities.

“However, Pentyrch Nursery has declined the offer as the LA (Local Authority) is unable to meet the conditions that the owner set out as critical requirements by the proprietor. The discussions involved a range of services including the school, the Childcare Business Support Team and Strategic Estates with a view to establishing an agreement akin to other provisions developed across the city. The provision is intended to work in alignment with the Childcare Offer for Wales, provided by Welsh Government through Cardiff Council for those eligible to receive it.

“Pentyrch Nursery has been a long standing provider of childcare and funded nursery education places and it is regrettable that an agreement that provided mutual benefits could not be secured. However, as Pentyrch Nursery has decided not to enter an agreement, expression of interests have been sought for a long term wrap-around care provider for nursery age children, to be offered at the school alongside the maintained nursery education provision.

“Although the owner has advised the Council that they would continue to offer their childcare provision from the Village Hall, they were not excluded from the tendering process which followed standard process and received interest from a range of providers.

“The ages of children that will be able to receive nursery care at the primary school. Pentyrch Nursery caters for two year old children who, from January, will not be able to receive care because the school can only provide care for three year olds and older.

“The childcare to be offered at the Pentyrch Primary School will be for 3-4 year olds as wrap around to their nursery education places offered at the school. There are no current plans to offer to 2 year olds or younger at this time.”