Playschool ‘in a happier place’ after heartache

Ticklemetoo Community Playschool owner Zoe Duggan, left, with staff and children. Picture: Derek Martin DM17734217a
Ticklemetoo Community Playschool owner Zoe Duggan, left, with staff and children. Picture: Derek Martin DM17734217a

Having suffered the heartache of losing its premises, a long-standing playschool is now in a happier place.

Ticklemetoo Community Playschool is part of Ticklemetoo Childcare, an organisation operating across Littlehampton, Rustington and Angmering.

Owners Zoe and Martin Duggan were asked to set up a playschool at St Catherine’s Church, Littlehampton, and launched Ticklemetoo there in 2009.

The couple had been married in the church, were part of the congregation and helped with the children’s litany on Sundays.

Zoe said: “I was childminding and we were approached and asked to go in there. We started off really small and got bigger and bigger.”

But in 2015, two weeks before Christmas, they received a four-line email saying the licence agreement would not be renewed.

There was no explanation and requests for a meeting were refused. Zoe said she and Martin were personally hurt and she wrote to the Bishop but he replied to say there was no requirement for the church to offer a playschool.

That has now all been put behind them as new premises were found at St Andrew’s United Reformed Church, Rustington, last summer, where Jane and Peter Community Playgroup was closing down after more than 40 years.

Zoe said: “From where we were last year, which was heartbreaking, to where we are here, we are in a much happier place. We feel we really have been welcomed with open arms.

“Here, it is part of their community that they have something for children so we feel more safe and wanted.”

Zoe’s youngest child, two-year-old Elizabeth, attends the playschool and her other two, Niamh and Mia, are at school.

Manager Natalie Boyle said: “We have a lot of child-led activities. We find if we follow what they are interested in, then they will take part more and we can explore more through learning and development. It is a lovely little place.

“We were very successful in Littlehampton and we are just developing our name at the moment in Rustington. We have had such positive feedback from the families here.”

Some of the families relocated with the playschool but as it is more than three miles from the original site and many parents walked, it was too far for others.

It also affected the staff, as it was an all-day facility in Littlehampton but morning-only in Rustington.

Zoe said: “It was an upsetting time because we had a lot of staff who had been with us for a while. We were lucky that some came with us and we have a really strong team.”

The playschool is celebrating the end of its first successful year in Rustington and look forward to welcoming more children to the playschool in September.

Visit ticklemetoo.co.uk for more information.