Maintained nurseries safe for now but fears over their future remain

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

Croydon’s maintained nurseries were relieved to hear the council is considering keeping them open following a consultation on their future. 

Despite the consultation showing 94.9 per cent of respondents were against school closure, school bosses remain cautious, saying “no guarantees have been given about closures or even the earliest point of closure.”

In its report, the council said a number of alternative models are now being considered and a decision will be made in three months’ time.

He said: “We could have just gone straight out and closed the school but instead we went out for a new consultation to get some feedback. The whole point is making them viable for the future.”

But, closure is still a possibility following this review period. 

The recently formed Nursery Schools Matter (NSM) campaign aims to prevent the closure.

NSM member, Georgia Martin, said: “Whilst it is good that the council will be reviewing alternatives, the closure of one or more nursery schools is still a possibility within the next year. 

“This is something that should not be on the agenda given the vital work they do and the volume and strength of community regard for the nursery schools’ support of children and their families.

“We are proud of the community response to the consultation on nursery closures. By coming together, families and our community have given a clear message of what these nurseries mean to us and the value they have in our lives.”

The maintained nursery school consultation is part of the council’s wider effort to balance the borough’s books (Picture: Harrison Galliven)

The consultation, which began in July, set out to determine whether to shut or merge five nurseries it runs in the borough. 

The authority said ‘urgent’ decisions need to be made as the maintained nursery schools have a shortfall of more than £500,000. 

The five nurseries, Purley Nursery, Selhurst Nursery, Tunstall Nursery, Crosfield Nursery and Thornton Heath Nursery offer free schooling to children aged three to five. 

Alaina Packer-Searle, a Maintained Nursery School Governor said: “Croydon’s maintained nursery schools have offered valuable early education and care to children and families for decades.

“Collaborative, solution focused conversations regarding the financially viable options that Croydon’s MNS could adopt are welcomed.”

In their cabinet report, Croydon council claimed that “currently, there is sufficient and diverse supply of early education and childcare provision available across the borough to meet demand.” 

But, non-educational groups have also shown concern over the future of the schools, and have expressed criticism over the council’s wider effort to balance the books.

Emma Gardiner, Project Lead at South Norwood Community Kitchen said: “We cannot allow our community to be continually stripped of its assets to claw back cash. 

“Residents of Croydon hold no responsibility for the Council’s bankruptcy yet are once again not only footing the bill but losing the very fabric of their community through the loss of spaces designated for public benefit. We won’t let this happen.”  

When approached for comment, Mayor Perry said: “These five schools form part of Croydon’s wide range of early years education and childcare options and are an important part of their local communities.

“We are doing everything possible to secure their future, but doing nothing is not an option. 

“I’d like to thank all the parents and other contributors for taking part in this informal consultation – we will continue to listen and make sure their views help inform decisions on the proposals.”

Pictured top: The nursery school at Selhurst Children’s Centre is one of five maintained nurseries that may face closure (Picture: Google Street View)

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