Stockbridge Preschool



Sue Larard and I opened Stockbridge Play Group, as it was then, in September 1982. We both had very definite ideas about what we wanted to do which appeared to be much the same – we didn’t want the children to play all morning – we wanted a structure. We wanted the children to be disciplined right from the beginning and to learn respect for us and for each other, to be polite and to learn traditional values, and we definitely didn’t want any large, sit and ride toys. We wanted the children to use their imaginations. After a meeting in Sue’s garden we realised that it was something needed in the village.  We started with 19 children and in two years had 30 every day.

Things were very different then.

· we charged 75 pence a morning and only worked 4 mornings a week.

· None of the mothers worked

· There were no Mobile phones

We had a naughty step – the top of the piano. What would health and safety have made of that?

In 35 years we have had only eleven members of staff and all of them but one have been parents. The other one came to preschool herself. The four of us left at the end had done 86 years service between us.

We have always tried to teach the children traditional and cultural values and wanted to make our Play Group part of the wider Community and we have always expected perfection from our children because we know that if you expect perfection you will get something good whereas if you only expect good, you only get something mediocre. You should never underestimate children. They all have the potential for greatness in their own way. Christmas plays became a bit legendary and we used to invite people from the neighbourhood to come and watch the Dress rehearsal. We have also done Easter musicals, wonderful Diwali mornings and celebrated Chinese New Year.

Just a few highlights of the past 35 years

· we did a radio interview in 1984 because a quarter of our children were Icelandic. We had to struggle with names like Gunnar Adelsteinson, Friedliefur Friedliefurson and Hrefna Gustavsdottir, and try to make sense of the surnames which were all different in each family. None of the children could speak English when they arrived but they all learned before they left.

· we held a Baptism service in Church. The children were parents and Godparents and the Vicar, in robes, baptised the ‘baby’. All the parents dressed up and the Church was full. We had a party afterwards and one of the Mums had made a lovely cake.

· we celebrated the Queen’s silver, golden and diamond jubilees and also her 90th birthday. We had parties in our garden with everyone, children and parents, dressed up in red, white and blue. We played games such as pin the crown on the Queen, musical thrones, and find the corgi and then had  wonderful tea provided by the parents with Union Flag cakes and red, white and blue jellies.

· in 2011 there was a flood in the Church Hall and the Vicar very kindly told us that we could use the Church instead. What a wonderful term we had. No, we couldn’t have sand, or water, or paint, but we could do quiet things and the children loved it. They had so much space to play in and they behaved very respectfully to where we were. OFSTED were called because we had a change of venue – I answered questions like where do the windows open,  (they’re stained glass, they don’t open) and is there enough air (have you seen inside the Church).

We celebrated three Christmas tree festivals in the village which was fun, and in 2015 we were asked to sing there. The children were amazing, dressed in their Christmas jumpers and all wearing reindeer antlers.

Our constant aim was to teach the children to help other people and this we did by supporting several charities – Barnardo’s and the NSPCC were the main two but we also twinned six toilets and other charities occasionally. Altogether a grand total of almost £15,000.


The main aim of Stockbridge Preschool has always been to send children to school who are confident, secure and above all, happy. This we have done to the best of our ability and so as you can imagine when, about six weeks ago we had to ask ourselves the same question that we asked 35 years ago – “What do we do if we only have 9 children?” – and we answered, we only have seven, the answer this time had to be “We have to close”. It was not an easy decision, not least because it wasn’t ours to make. We did not close, we were all forced to quit, and if you don’t have enough children, you can’t be a Preschool.


I have had a wonderful 35 years working with all the staff, past and present. We feel privileged to have guided and taught the 729 children who have passed through our doors and we know by the messages we have seen on Facebook, that we have not been forgotten for whatever reason. So, thank you to all the parents for entrusting your children to us and farewell.                          Sue Shipp


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