Local Face: Jack in the Box

  |  Published: Jun 2nd 2014
Tracey Buttle, manager

Jack in the Box Pre-school will be 20 years old in September, and to celebrate they are opening their doors for three afternoon sessions—increasing the pre-school provision for parents and carers in Wendover.

Jack in the Box Playgroup was the brainchild of Linda Ayres and Brenda Edwards, opening in the Clay Lane Scout Hut (which opened March 1990) in September 1994. They were already qualified and practiced Playgroup leaders and wanted to offer something special to the toddlers of Wendover. There was great sadness when Brenda Edwards died suddenly in November 2010. Happily, Linda Ayres continued to lead until her retirement in July 2012.

Ruth Blake has worked at Jack in the Box (JitB) since it opened. At the time she was a volunteer helper with needlecraft at John Hampden Infant School but a friend who was on the staff at JitB couldn’t do the first week so Ruth stepped in and has been there ever since. Both her grandchildren have passed through JitB. Ruth is a great advocate of learning through play, which introduces toddlers to number and simple literacy and writing skills using all sorts of games and crafts. This is delivered through the free play of the children and observation by the assistants. Voluntary helpers as she had been are few and far between because now-a-days the typical route of an assistant like Ruth is to train for qualifications on-the-job, aiming for a Level 3 Diploma in Childcare. This enables them to complete the paperwork, including learning journeys, and contribute to parent consultations. Staff like Ruth are easily identified by their uniform of a teeshirt and sweatshirt depending on the weather.

The current Pre-school Manager is Tracey Buttle, one of seven members of staff. There is also one volunteer. Tracey's children attended JitB and she started as a parent on the committee. When her younger child joined in 2009, she started training and became an assistant, then a supervisor. Tracey finds her pre-children experience in business has been invaluable, and she plans to take JitB onto afternoon working in the Autumn. The current hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 12 noon. In September they will be open until 3pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Two year olds will be admitted and 3+ year olds can stay for the whole morning and afternoon session. Tracey can be contacted on 01296 696404, 07814 093064 or jackintheboxpreschool@hotmail.co.uk .

Another great help in developing JitB Pre-school was the appointment of Gill Osmond as the Chair of the committee. She brought with her experience as a former teacher at John Hampden Infant School. Having taught Infants and Nursery children for 30 years, she was appointed an Early Years Advisory Teacher in Bucks. The Scout Hut setting is ideal as the Scouts are benevolent landlords, eg, they made the barbecue bases the right size for Pre-school sandpits. The grounds facilitate freeflow access to outdoor and indoor play. A team of 8 staff means plenty of people to supervise the entire premises. They even have a kitchen garden where they grow their own carrots, beans, peas, radishes, tomatoes and flowers.

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