Once there was a pre-school, and its name was Merry-Go-Round.
It wasn’t much to look at with its plain grey pebbledash.
But Merry-Go-Round was a place with a big imagination.
It had a tiny budget but it achieved great things.
I recently wrote about my frustration with how society has come to value and evaluate my time – and every other woman’s time, for that matter. I’ve returned to the issue, (from another angle, admittedly), because it is still preoccupying me. All will become clear.
I chair the committee of a small, rural pre-school. Regular readers of my blog will now that I am passionate about the good that such groups can do for children. This pre-school is special to me for a whole bunch of reasons; as a place where my little girl has flourished, has been loved and valued for herself; as a place that contributes much to the lives of 30 or so more children, year in, year out; as a group at the heart of the community I live in. I first came to know it as an inspector, and always felt it was the best I’d seen. As a parent, then committee member, and then chair, I admire the hard work, skill, knowledge base and commitment of the team more and more. And you’ll forgive me if I pull out my orange box and step up one more time, to tell you about our afternoon fundraising…
The pre-school has a great committee of people who, like me, grasp why good pre-schools deserve voluntary help. They despair, as I do, at the hand-to-mouth nature of the group’s existence. As the months pass, they, like me, become more politicised, more galvanised into action. It often feels like we are under attack. One week, our Local Authority is cutting an aspect of our funding without warning (there is a lot of that at the moment), the next, the foul weather floods our garden and we pay out of our savings (that could have been spent on equipment for the children) to get the remedial work done. To this particular end, our fundraising subcommittee (3 hardworking women, more are welcome!) held a cake sale today.
Blessed with sunshine, the stall was put outside, and with some excellent marketing skills attracted an intrigued line of consumers all in need of that mid-afternoon sugar hit. As the pre-school is on a school site, with good positioning and timing, we soon drew a crowd of school staff and parents collecting their older children. And, with so many yummy things to sell, we made the fine sum of £145 in just over an hour. Three trestle tables full of baking were reduced to a single Tupperware box of unsold buns.
Through one lens that £145 is a triumph. It came about because of the day-in day-out connection the committee and staff make with the whole parent group – ‘Can you bake us a cake?’ and ‘Do come along for a slice!’. One mum mentioned in passing how lovely it had been to carve out the time to bake cakes with her daughter in preparation. And as customers selected their purchases, we talked to parents about other things they could do to help the group, smiled, chatted, and enjoyed a moment of fresh air while the kids played around us.
But through a different lens, it is but a drop in the ocean. Just as the cake sale started I signed a cheque for our administrator that will wipe out the profit of the cake sale – and it’s not for anything exciting, just some materials to help us with said garden problem. Like I said, keeping going is a daily struggle. And yet I don’t want to rain on our parade. It was £145 we didn’t have when we woke up this morning, and the raising of the money created an event that added to the life of the group. Such things matter, even if society doesn’t see it.
And the struggle is one that I am in for the long haul. I do what I can, when I can for the group, not for glory but for the satisfaction of knowing that I used the skillset I have for my kids, to try and make a difference, to help it survive. For that is what it is about – Survival. The Department of Education is not currently staffed by people who are likely to get their cheque books out for provision for under-fives. It’s barely on their radar (apart from as a vote winner, but that’s a different matter). But, while I get impassioned, angry, even rant at my telly, I don’t get downhearted. (But, on behalf of the whole committee, I am possessed of an underlying frustration that the great work they do, that the group does, trundles on unnoticed by society in general.)
So, apologies to Mrs Donaldson for my opening ditty, but I’ve a feeling she wouldn’t mind. And if you want to make a donation to our coffers, you know where to find me….