Uncertainty over future of council nurseries proving stressful for Croydon parents

By Harrison Galliven, Local Democracy Reporter

Parents have expressed concern over the lack of certainty around the future of maintained nursery schools in Croydon. It comes as the council considers plans that could see some of them close by the end of the year.

Croydon council’s ongoing plans to reform the borough’s five maintained nursery schools has been provoked by those schools’ budget shortfall of more than £500,000.

The five nurseries – Purley Nursery, Selhurst Nursery, Tunstall Nursery, Crosfield Nursery, and Thornton Heath Nursery – are run and funded by the council and offer free schooling to children aged three to five.

While the council’s decision not to close any of the borough’s maintained nursery schools in December 2023 brought relief, parents and staff admit that the fight is not over. They are now expecting a decision on the fate of the nurseries at the next Croydon cabinet meeting in May.

Parents with children at these nurseries say this delay leaves them in a difficult and stressful situation.

Liz Daniels, who has a child at Crosfield Nursery. She said: “We are waiting every day for news on Crosfield’s future, as are other parents we know. We are paying nearly eight times as much for our three-year-old to attend her current nursery as it would to send her to Crosfield.

“Her nursery raised fees by 22 per cent this month and has decided not to offer the 30 free hours because it is unaffordable for them.

“The uncertainty about the future and the lack of detail about timelines from the council is really stressful for us as a family.”

The council is working with consultants, who are going through plans put forward by each nursery which outline alternate ways of working. These plans would see the schools raise more money by teaching for longer hours, charging for those extended hours, and providing holiday clubs.

Selhurst Nursery, which is in a federation with nearby Crosfield Nursery (Picture: Harrison Galliven)

However, according to the Our Schools Matter Campaign, these plans do not rule out the prospect of closure and amalgamation of schools as options the council could explore.

Georgia Martin, a Croydon mum who helped set up the campaign, believes the whole process was not conducted with parents in mind.

She said: “It is not great that now, in March, is the first time the plan has been given any thorough consideration, even though it was submitted back in October.

“For a lot of parents, you don’t know for certain what your childcare arrangements are going to be in September.

“The nurseries are showing integrity but every time they show parents around they have to say that we’re not certain whether or not the nursery will be open in September. Their numbers are full at present but I think it’s difficult for people to sign up to that.”

According to campaigners, children from lower-income families and SEND children are most likely to be affected by these changes.

Closure of the maintained nursery schools would mean that these children and their families could struggle to find equivalent schooling in a borough that is already struggling with early-year provision.

A Croydon council spokesman said: “We are doing everything possible to secure a sustainable model for these nursery schools, but doing nothing is not an option.

“We are part way through a series of workshops exploring alternative models with the nursery schools, and we are grateful to parents and everyone who has contributed to this.

“We will continue to listen and make sure their views help inform the proposals, with any changes being subject to more formal consultation, before being developed in detail and in collaboration with the nursery schools themselves.”

Pictured top: Chilcare activity at Crosfield Nursery (Picture: Crosfield Nursery)

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