Croydon Parents Await Decision on Future of Maintained Nursery Schools

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Families in Croydon are facing uncertainty and stress as they await a decision on the future of maintained nursery schools in the borough. The council’s ongoing plans to address a budget shortfall of over £500,000 have left families in limbo, unsure if their children’s nurseries will remain open beyond this year.

The five nurseries affected – Purley Nursery, Selhurst Nursery, Tunstall Nursery, Crosfield Nursery, and Thornton Heath Nursery – have long been pillars of the community, providing free schooling to children aged three to five. While the decision to keep them open in December 2023 provided temporary relief, the looming possibility of closures still hangs over parents and staff.

A parent with a child at Crosfield Nursery expressed the strain this uncertainty has placed on families. With skyrocketing fees at alternative nurseries and a lack of clarity from the council, parents find themselves in a state of constant worry about their children’s education and care.

The council, in an attempt to address the financial shortfall, is exploring options to raise more money for the nurseries. External consultants are reviewing proposals put forward by each nursery, including extending teaching hours, charging for additional hours, and offering holiday clubs. However, concerns remain as these plans do not guarantee against closures or mergers, leaving parents and staff feeling unheard and disregarded.

An advocate for the Our Schools Matter Campaign highlighted the frustration felt by many. They criticised the delayed consideration of plans and the lack of consultation with parents, stressing that the timing of decisions leaves families scrambling to secure childcare for the upcoming school year.

The uncertainty also takes a toll on nursery staff, who face the heartbreak of uncertain futures and the difficult task of reassuring parents while grappling with their own concerns about job security.

Campaigners warn that the potential closure of these nurseries would disproportionately affect children from lower-income families and those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Maintained nursery schools have long been valued for their accessibility and high-quality teaching, making them essential for families facing financial constraints or seeking tailored support for their children.

The situation in Croydon reflects broader challenges facing early years education across the UK. A recent report by the children’s education charity CORAM highlighted a decline in nursery places nationwide, exacerbating the struggle for parents to secure affordable and accessible childcare.

Despite efforts by the council to find a sustainable solution for the nurseries, concerns persist among parents, staff, and advocates. The council’s reassurance of ongoing consultation and collaboration offers some hope, but until concrete plans are in place, the uncertainty and stress for Croydon families remain unabated.

As the May cabinet meeting approaches, all eyes are on Croydon Council to make decisions that will shape the future of early years education in the borough. For now, parents and staff can only wait and hope for a resolution that prioritises the well-being and education of the youngest members of their community.

Sam Allcock
Sam Allcock
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