Parents hit by club closure

PARENTS are today trying to find new places to send their children outside of school hours after the announcement that a popular before and after-school club is being forced to close.

PARENTS are today trying to find new places to send their children outside of school hours after the announcement that a popular before and after-school club is being forced to close.

Rhymes Out-of-School Club, which looks after about 30 children before and after school, is closing its doors in October because its owner Marilyn Grant says she cannot continue to operate from limited space at St Helen's Primary School in Woodbridge Road.

Mrs Grant this week gave parents notice that the club would be closing on October 22.

"I didn't do this lightly because I know what it is like for parents but I just felt it wasn't working," she said.

In a letter sent out this week Mrs Grant told parents: "For some time we have found the facilities available to us at St Helen's School make it very difficult to run Out-of-School activities that are as broad and rewarding to the children in our care as they are at our other clubs."

The closure announcement comes on the same day the government have announced extra funding for out of school schemes.

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Rhymes Out-of-School Club is one of five clubs run by Mrs Grant and has been based at St Helen's School since 1999. It has continually suffered from insufficient storage space.

"We couldn't offer what we could at the other clubs," she said.

"At all our other clubs we have much more resources and there isn't even outside space at St Helen's.

"We've had a great deal of problems trying to offer the broad activities that we offer in other clubs."

Rhymes is searching for a new premises to operate the club from but they have been unable to find an appropriate base.

They need a new site where there is room to either store the equipment used by children or space where they can erect a small building to store the equipment.

"We've looked around to see if there were any other premises," Mrs Grant said.

"What we need is a school with grounds where we can put our own building.

She added: "Many halls won't help us because we're a private business."

The company is investigating using taxis to shuttle children to its other clubs but the cost implications are still being considered.

"We're looking into it. If we're going to take them up to Kesgrave and Martlesham it's going to be added costs for the parents," Mrs Grant said.

"We're doing everything we can to help."

Philip Golding, headteacher of St Helen's School, said: "I am disappointed with the Rhymes closure announcement at the start of this term. Numbers have not been maintained through the last year.

"We recognise the importance of this kind of provision for working parents and school governors will be seeing what alternative provision can be offered in the next few weeks."

Mother Larissa Hutson, of Martlesham, said: "There was no confrontation, there was just a letter through the post. It leaves parents up the creak without a paddle.

"It is going to be disastrous as both my husband and I work and we only have seven weeks to sort things out. We have already decided we do not want our child to go with a child minder but we are lacking in other choices."

Fiona Smith, of Woodbridge Road, Ipswich, only placed her son at the after school club a week before the holidays.

She said: "They must have known they were going to close at this time but they went ahead and accepted him anyway. He was only there fore two days before the letter came through to say they were closing."

Laura Balanuca, of Hayhill Road, Ipswich, said: "I am a single mum and would not be able to afford a child minder. I am worried because I don't know of any other facilities and if I don't get things sorted out soon it could affected my job."

Will you be affected by the closure of Rhymes? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail