Staff rebel as cuts to nursery school provision loom in Wandsworth

By Charlotte Lillywhite, Local Democracy Reporter

Staff at nurseries in South London have begun strike action over proposed ‘drastic cuts’ which would leave many redundant.

Union officials warned the impact on nursery provision in Wandsworth would be ‘devastating’ if the proposed cuts, mainly affecting Balham and Eastwood nursery schools, go ahead in September, particularly for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Staff, who are all members of the NEU and NASUWT unions, walked out of the nursery schools on Wednesday morning last week after being informed of the proposals from the Wandsworth Federation of Maintained Nursery Schools in January.

Union officials claimed 20 jobs would be cut under the proposals across the three nursery schools making up the federation – Balham, Eastwood and Somerset nursery schools.

These roles include deputy heads, a special educational needs coordinator, teachers, teaching assistants, nursery nurses and meal supervisors.

The Wandsworth council-run nursery schools, which are rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, support children aged two to four. They also offer funded specialist places for children with a high level of SEND.

A 38-year-old mum, who wished to remain anonymous, said children would be ‘let down’ if the proposed cuts went ahead. She said she believed her autistic son was thriving now because of the support he was given at Eastwood Nursery School, which he attended in 2013.

Paul Robinson, regional officer at NEU, at the strike at Eastwood Nursery School (Picture: Charlotte Lillywhite/LDRS)

The mum said: “He was unable to speak, he was unable to sit down. I couldn’t get any help for him anywhere else. I was at my wit’s end and then he went here and he completely changed.

“They taught him how to talk, how to communicate. It honestly changed my life. I might have even had a breakdown if my son didn’t go here.”

Wandsworth council said it was disappointed at the strike action, but urged the government to pledge extra funding for maintained nursery schools, which it said were under threat of closure in London due to underfunding and falling birth rates.

Paul Robinson, regional officer at the NEU, slammed the proposed cuts as ‘devastating’.

“This will damage Wandsworth provision, not just now but way into the future, and we’re here to resist that,” he said. He argued the proposals were ‘short-sighted’ as more parents would be able to return to work from April as the government was expanding childcare support in phases, which could see demand for places rise.

By September 2025, working parents of children under the age of five will be entitled to 30 hours’ free childcare a week.

Anita Conradi, local branch officer at the NEU, said: “It’s not only those people who are at risk of being made redundant and therefore losing their jobs, but it’s the people who are left behind who will be doing virtually the same work but amongst fewer of them.

“The management are almost now embarking on the road to closure. That’s not their aim… but if they run them down, as it were, they will die because there won’t be the provision, the staffing, for them to thrive.”

The unions said further strike dates are scheduled on April 16, 17, 23, 24 and 25 at the nursery schools.

A Wandsworth council spokesman said: “We are disappointed that there has been industrial action and urge the Government to take swift action to resolve the funding crisis to avoid causing inconvenience to local families.

“We have been lobbying ministers to improve funding for nurseries and written to the Secretary of State urging her to take swift action to pledge extra funding for nurseries but have not had a response to these requests.”

The Wandsworth Federation of Maintained Nursery Schools has been contacted for comment.

Pictured top: Staff and union officials on strike at Eastwood Nursery School on March 27 (Picture: Charlotte Lillywhite/LDRS)

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