‘The council don’t understand how serious this is’: Parents plead to stop cuts to SEND nursery

Parents from a nursery that supports children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have been left in limbo as the council propose a restructure that would see up to 15 redundancies.

Just months after being rated Outstanding by Ofsted, staff at Kintore Way Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Grange Road, Bermondsey, were told they may lose their jobs after December 31.

The council has said the restructure is still under consultation, but parents and staff – more than 10 of which have been working at the nursery for more than 20 years – are preparing for the worst.

Children playing on nursery grounds in Kintore way nursery (Picture: Brenda Obwona)

Yoko Liu, 40, from Old Kent Road, Walworth, secured a place for her three-year-old son Lucas, at Kintore Way, in April. 

She said: “There has been an amazing improvement with his social skills, the teachers are so good with him.

“He had a new life until this news came out – there may only be two teachers left in his class.

 “How do I explain to him that his teachers are gone.”

Kintore Way serves more than 200 children, 45 per cent of which are SEND (Picture: Brenda Obwona)

The reorganisation comes as a result of a financial deficit the nursery has built up – which the council has asked to be paid back across the next five years.

Kintore Way is one of the country’s largest maintained nurseries serving more than 200 children, 45 per cent of which are SEND. Maintained nurseries were set up to provide early education and childcare in the most deprived areas of England.

Due to the way funding is accessed in the education sector, money for SEND pupils often bypasses nursery schools and goes straight to primary schools.

Southwark council, unlike Lambeth and Wandsworth councils, do not have funding provision for children under five years old who have SEND.

Since the consultation began, the nursery have had to turn away 34 families on the waiting list as reduced staff numbers will not be able to cope after cuts are made.

Parents came out in support of Kintore Way nursery staff at a public meeting in October (Picture: Brenda Obwona)

A single mum aged 47 from Abbey street, Bermondsey, who’s three year old non-verbal son attends the nursery said she relies on the staff’s support at Kintore Way.

The woman – who asked not to be named – said: “I don’t have any other family so I have learnt so much from the nursery.

“I have three other children but he is my first with autism so this is all very new to me.

“I don’t know what I’m doing – he’s under a sleep clinic, a dietitian, speaking and language support.

“He is considered non-verbal but he’s been saying more since being there.”

Nursery staff have also raised serious concerns about the wellbeing and safeguarding of students if there are fewer staff to support them, given the varied and complex needs of these pupils.

Southwark councillor and deputy leader, Jasmine Ali, said: “It is well known that many schools and nurseries across London have struggled with the effects of a falling birth rate, combined with a lack of funding from the Government, which sadly does not meet the cost of provision and fair pay for experienced staff, and operates a per capita funding model which does not always cover the running costs of schools or nurseries.”

Pictured top: Kintore Way nursery school in Bermondsey and pupil Eva (Picture: Supplied by Brenda Obwona)

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