Community Papers

Brighouse preschool celebrates 60 years

Irene Richards and Elly English, who joined Brighouse Preschool nearly two decades ago, are celebrating the school’s 60th anniversary of serving local parents and their children.  - Martin van den Hemel photo
Irene Richards and Elly English, who joined Brighouse Preschool nearly two decades ago, are celebrating the school’s 60th anniversary of serving local parents and their children.
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel photo

If you’ve never been to Brighouse Nursery Preschool on Bennett Road, and you grew up in Richmond, the visit might have you reminiscing.

The preschool is out of view from the street, tucked in behind Brighouse United Church just east of the first McDonald’s restaurant in Canada, and remains true to its original values established 60 years ago of keeping childcare costs low for area families.

Look out the preschool’s windows at the playground, and you’ll see a well-loved jungle gym made in the style commonplace in the ’60s and ‘70s; long, sturdy straight logs with holes drilled in them, a type now replaced by plasticized versions at most schools (Brighouse also has two modern plastic playground structures).

Opened in the autumn of 1952 by a group of women mostly  from the Brighouse congregation, Brighouse was originally a kindergarten intended to meet a perceived community need for what Rev. Stuart Appenheimer called a “part-time, home spun version of kindergarten.” It wasn’t until 1972 that provincial legislation brought in kindergartens across the province.

The kindergarten was located in the church hall, and Louise Hendron was the first head teacher.

Today Brighouse is well-equipped, fully-accredited and licensed, and staffed by early childhood education teachers, including head teacher Elly English and Irene Richards.

“We love our work and we love our coworkers,” said English, who joined the school at the same time as Richards back in 1994.

While the demand for childcare in Richmond remains strong, evidenced by the many preschools and daycares that have opened in the two decades, at Brighouse their enrolment has declined over the past 10 years.

It’s a phenomenon that English says other preschools are experiencing as well, and she believes many Chinese families are returning to China with their children, resulting in a dip in demand.

It could also be the result of increased competition, or perhaps that more two-income families are seeking out day-long childcare alternatives, rather than the two hours and 15 minutes of morning or afternoon instruction at Brighouse.

Even stay-at-home moms, English said, view preschools as important ways to socialize their children, and help them learn language skills.

English said she loves her work, as does Richards, and that’s why they’ve remained at Brighouse for so long.

It’s a traditional style of instruction, where they teach the ABCs, counting, encourage free writing, the arts and crafts, along with language skills through singing and repetition.

Rev. Appenheimer says the school keeps its costs low with the support of volunteer labour and its non-profit status.

Brighouse Nursery Preschool is located at 8151 Bennett Rd., just east of No. 3 Road.

For more information, call 604-272-2480 or visit brighouseunitedchurch.org and click on preschool in the left hand column.

Brighouse United Church also operates a daycare, that offers full-day child care.

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