PARENTS of children at an Oswestry-based gymnastics club feel they have been let down after the club announced it would remove their children’s memberships if they stop payments during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Border Counties School of Gymnastics has been forced to temporarily close due to the social-distancing measures enforced by the government, but its manager has emailed parents to let them know that children will be taken off the club’s register if payments are not made.

However, club manager, Helene Cook, has defended the decision and said the club’s priority remains to be its members.

She also added that the club is currently unable to attain any financial assistance from the government, and intends to pay staff 80 per cent of their wages for the next three months, but requires membership fees to be paid by parents to do so.

Many parents of children at the club however have been disappointed with the way in which the decision has been made, and have been left frustrated as they have not been able to get in touch with the club during the process.

One of the parents, Jodie Jones, believes the decision is unfair on the children, and feels as though parents are being asked to pay for a service they will not be receiving.

“The week before gyms were forced to close, everyone at the club had to pay fees for the upcoming 10 weeks, and obviously then the gyms closed,” she said.

“Everyone’s been contacting the club but it’s not answering any messages, and we have been told in an email that we’ll have to pay the next lot of fees for something we’re not having, otherwise our children will be struck off the register.

“My daughter is one of many who had to wait 18 months for a place in the club and has been going for a number of years now.

“If you had a hairdressers appointment in the next month, you wouldn’t be expecting to pay for it because you’re not going to have it.

“A lot of parents put a lot of money into that club, so for them to say they won’t be responding to us is poor.

“I’m friends with some of the parents of other children who go there, and some have had to cancel their direct debits because they’re self-employed or can’t afford to keep paying at the moment.

“The children have lost a lot of stuff already because of the virus such as school and seeing their friends, and now when it is all back to normal, they might lose their gymnastics club as well.

“It really upset me receiving that email.”

Fellow parent, Martin Phillips, added that the decision is putting his children’s position in the club under threat.

He said: “It feels like the parents are being asked to keep the club afloat really which is unfair on the children.

“We’ve got two children who go to the club and they like going there, but we’re probably going to pull them out of it.

“Other gymnastics parents aren’t happy with the situation. We’re being asked to keep our contributions going without any guarantee that the club’s going to stay open.

“We’re losing lesson time because of the current climate, which is really unfortunate, but it doesn’t seem a fair way of doing business.”

While parents have been left upset by the decision, club manager Helene believes it is essential to ensure the club can continue to operate beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

She explained: “We are all in unusual times. In order for there to be a club to return to we need to retain our coaching/staff team and our facility.

“Without them we cannot hold classes for anyone, member or not. With no fee income there will be no club beyond the end of May.

“Our absolute priority always has been and always will be our club members. Therefore if a family makes a decision to withdraw their child from our programme, we totally accept that.

“We then have to plan how to keep calm and keep going with what we have left. We are placing all our gymnasts who have ‘left’ our programme on our waiting lists and if we do manage to rescue ourselves we will absolutely be in touch with anyone we can offer a place too.

“It is simply not fair or equitable to make a subjective prioritisation to one over another.

“It may not be the most popular decision and the operation of our club will be forever changed, should we manage to remain open, but at this time we simply cannot build a virtual gymnastics castle in the sky with no idea on how we are expected to afford to do so.

“We are saddened by the whole situation we never thought possible and are working hard to remain positive and hopeful and at this time that is all we can do.

“As the most recent club update states, we will be in touch in two weeks’ time when we know more fully what we face, where we stand and where we go next.”