Campaign begins to save council-run nurseries facing the axe

Four nurseries threatened with closure

Friday, 17th January 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Camden New Journal 2020-01-16 at 17.54.52 (1)

Parents at the Gospel Oak nursery appeal for it to be saved from closure

PARENTS are fighting to halt plans to close down council-run nurseries with warnings that their children will be left with nowhere to go.

More than 500 people have already signed a petition calling for the Gospel Oak Nursery to be saved after families were sent letters about a consultation survey over its future.

Hampden Nursery in Somers Town, Konstam Nursery in Highgate Newtown and Kilburn Grange could also be shut down from September as Camden Council assesses the numbers who are using the service.

Shauni Warman, a parent with young children at Gospel Oak Nursery, said: “My twin sons, Joey and Hunter, were diagnosed with autism last year and since starting the nursery have excelled in leaps and bounds. The staff are amazing and highly experienced and my sons have built a beautiful relationship with them.”

The nursery is just a stone’s throw from Carlton Primary School, which the Town Hall is also considering closing, blaming dwindling numbers of applications for places.

Amina Taiwo, another parent at the Gospel Oak nursery, who lives in Bacton Tower, said: “The nursery is in a great location for me. They say it is an issue with numbers but who knows? My family could increase by next year and this could bring children to fill the empty space. “Things could change within a year.”

Yami Manchanda-Corless, a parent of a three-year-old at the nursery, said: “I was devastated when I found out. I nearly cried at the gate. “This nursery has really helped me and my daughter. My mum has stage 4 cancer and lives nearby, so that’s why I chose it. “It’s easier for me and for my daughter – having that safe space to go to means she is a lot happier.”

The Town Hall say the number of three and four-year-olds in Camden has decreased by around 500 in the past three years, with some wards having seen a reduction by at least 20 per cent. The council is also looking to make £500,000 worth of savings in their Early Years provision budget.

Hugo Pierre, from the UNISON union, said: “I want to campaign with parents to stop the council from making these closures to nursery places. We think the figures aren’t what they are saying. Why get rid of outstanding provision? If they were to advertise and promote outstanding nurseries they could fill these empty places. What they are taking away, particularly for working parents, is taking away a place for parents to leave their children.”

Ms Warman added: “Before starting, my sons were mute and had no concept of social situations, but now they have made friends, they are communicating and they look forward to going to nursery every day. The difference I have seen is truly powerful as a parent. Closure of this nursery puts all of this at risk as I am very fearful they will regress and be fearful of starting relationships.”

A protest by parents at Hampden Nursery is being planned for Tuesday morning. Camden’s education chief, Councillor Angela Mason, said: “The council is consulting on proposals for our Early Years services to provide a greater focus on children’s crucial first 1,001 days of life – from birth to two years old. Our proposed new approach would aim to narrow the gap of achievement and wellbeing between disadvantaged children and others in the borough.”

She added: “The proposed changes also aim to address the high level of vacancies in council and school nurseries and make better use of nurseries based in local primary schools, which would in turn help those schools to recruit more pupils.”

The council’s consultation will close on February 12.

Cllr Mason added: “Our preferred option, as set out in the consultation, is not to close any of our Early Years buildings, but for four of our council-run nurseries, including Gospel Oak Nursery, to become Sure Start children’s centres, offering a range of Early Years and family support services focused on children’s first 1,001 days, including support for things like speech and language therapy.”

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