Parents have been left reeling after a pre-school announced it would be closing at the end of the week.

A letter sent to parents by Bitterne Community Pre-School on Friday and seen by the Echo said that staff shortages and the impact on funding from a recent Ofsted inspection meant it would have to shut.

It will close at 11.30am on Friday (March 22), the letter said.

James Muehlnickel, chair of the pre-school, said in the letter: "We understand that this news may come as a shock, and we want to express our deepest gratitude for your support.

"It has been a privilege to be a part of your children's early years, and staff will cherish the memories created together."

One concerned parent told the Echo they 'were in shock' when they found out.

They said: "The thing that has got a lot of people's backs up is there was no communication about what was happening until the closure letter was sent out."

They questioned why the closure could not have happened a week later when schools break up for Easter, adding: "Now the struggle is to find places for the kids who start pre-school in September."

The decision was made following an Ofsted inspection on February 20, which graded the pre-school as 'inadequate' - the lowest-possible rating - despite some positive feedback.

The low grade was in part due to issues with staff competency and not having a deputy manager at the time.

"Unfortunately, at the time of inspection we were in the process of recruiting a deputy manager after a recent resignation. We now have a deputy manager in place," the letter said.

When pre-schools receive this lowest rating, Government funding is removed - meaning parents would not receive their free 15 or 30 hours of childcare, the letter explained.

This made the organisation 'financially unstable' - so the pre-school committee made the decision to close.

Payments and refunds would be settled 'as soon as possible' and the pre-school was working with Southampton City Council, Ofsted and nearby childcare providers to arrange 'replacement provision' on the site, next to Bitterne CE Primary School on Brownlow Avenue.

An Extraordinary General Meeting to officially close the pre-school will be held at 3.30pm on April 15 at Holy Saviour Church in Bitterne which parents can attend.

The pre-school declined to comment.