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40 years of ‘home from home’ school

Special party to mark milestone anniversary for pre-school that was a Victorian laundrette

28 July, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Pauline Davis, one of the school’s founders, is greeted at the 40th party

A PRE-SCHOOL that started life in a Victorian laundrette and has been hailed as a “home from home” by parents celebrated its 40th anniversary this week.

Essex Road Pre-school, in Canonbury, was conceived by three parents living by the Marquess estate who aimed to create a supportive and inclusive space for children and parents alike.

Essex Road pupils who ‘graduated’ this week

The school, which is behind the Sir Walter Sickert Community Centre, celebrated the anniversary with a rapturous party alongside a graduation ceremony for pupils going into infant school. The children were given goody bags filled with toys and a special diploma.

One of the founders, Pauline Davis, 65, who still teaches at the school once a week supporting children with special needs, joined in the festivities after travelling from Hertfordshire where she now lives.

The class of 2000

Ms Davis said she stayed as a teacher and manager for 40 years because of the school’s “family” atmosphere.

“We have generation after generation of children here,” she said. “It is really lovely, we created something that was quite rare and you wouldn’t leave once you had been a part of the family.”

She said the founders were given the former laundrette as a site for the school by the Marquess estate committee who dealt with the management of the flats.

The class of 2002

“Forty years ago there were all these machines, all the cubicles, it was like Victorian times, which was really good. But we had to go temporarily into some portable cabins,” she said. “The staff are outstanding, because they work tirelessly for those children. Sometimes it can be quite thankless, but the staff are excellent and they’re fab.”

The school is seeking to expand to allow 10 extra pupils, as demand is too great with parents signing up their children the same year they are born.

The class of 2005

Parent Alice Lythgoe-Goldstein, 41, whose three-year-old son Dylan attends the school, called it a “hidden Islington gem”. She added: “It’s a really little building, you kind of open it and it’s like an oasis. We just love it. It has no advertising but word of mouth. The staff are lovely, really, it properly feels like a home from home.”

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