The leader of the only preschool provider in Magilligan has hit out against impending cuts to early years funding she said will mean the loss of staff, and a reduction in numbers.
Angela Begley from Magilligan Playgroup said the cuts are down to a £2 million cut to the Department of Education early years fund.
“The news came completely out of the blue, there was no consultation whatsoever,” said Angela. “We get DE funding for wages for a member of staff and that is the funding that is being cut. We lose a staff member, or else we have to find money from somewhere else to pay that member of staff.”
Mrs Begley said in Magilligan there is no other preschool provision, or other early years groups.
“It’s not even just Magilligan - it’s a big catchment area, including Myroe and Aghanloo, and even Downhill where our children come from. We would also get the overspill from Limavady for children who don’t get a place in the town. It would be devastating for Magilligan not to have this. If we lose a staff member, then we will have to go down to 16,” she said, stressing the service the playgroup provides is not childcare. She said just weeks ago they came through a Department of Education Inspection in which they were graded “very good” with some aspects “outstanding”.
“How can they put you through all that only to get an email the next day to say inspection you’re being cut; over £8,000 we would be losing,” said Mrs. Begley, “but we will fight it.”
SDLP Colr. Gerry Mullan said the playgroup provides a vital service for many local families and said cuts would have a negative impact locally.
“The playgroup is an invaluable service to the local community, which has great plans for the future with a new building to link with the community centre and become a hub of the community,” said Colr. Mullan. “It will have a devastating impact on local families. It’s a central part of the community.”