KEN LEE, our Town Hall reporter, on the Mayor’s latest ‘short-sighted short-termism’ that will yet again see residents paying more to get less
Jason Perry, the Conservative Mayor of Croydon who put up the borough’s Council Tax by 15per cent in April, now wants to close or merge five nursery schools run by the council.
The proposals are in a paper expected to be nodded through by Perry’s pliant Tory councillors at Wednesday night’s cabinet meeting.
Under Perry, the council is moving to reduce early years education provision in Croydon just weeks after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that the government will be increasing early-years education provision – which will probably (Croydon Council says it doesn’t yet know) increase the need for places at nursery schools.
The council says that the cuts are necessary because of “cumulative deficit across the… estate is £560,760 (as of end of previous year)”.
Ignoring the imminent increase in demand for nursery places, Piss-poor Perry said, “This has been an issue for many, many years and we’ve now got to make decisions around this.
“The five schools overall aren’t sustainable and this is the opening of that conversation, making sure the future is sustainable.”
The nursery schools under threat are:
- Thornton Heath Nursery (Ofsted rating: Good);
- Crosfield Nursery, South Norwood (Good);
- Selhurst Nursery (Requires improvement);
- Tunstall Nursery, Addiscombe (Outstanding);
- and Purley Nursery (Outstanding).
According to the council report: “Four of the five [Maintained Nursery Schools] are unable to balance their budget and have an increasing deficit.
“Under Section 7 of the Childcare Act 2006, Croydon has a statutory duty to provide sufficient funded three- and four-year-old places for eligible children to access.
“Early education is not statutory and is a parental choice. However, having enough and diversity of early years provision allow parents/carers to find childcare that meets their child’s learning needs and enables parents to make a real choice about work and training.”
The council report says “there are approximately 27,372 children under the age of five who are resident in Croydon.” The council report says that the five maintained nursery schools currently provide a grand total of 281 places.
“There is sufficient and diverse supply of early education and childcare provision available across the borough to meet demand,” the council report says.
The report was published on the council website last week, without any advance notice of the decision under consideration being given to the Town Hall Labour group, which has more councillors than any other political group.
The Tory councillors in Perry’s cabinet are expected to agree to recommend that the proposals should be put out to a highly skewed public consultation, and they will then ignore the findings and – probably – close at least one of the nurseries (Clue: it won’t be the one in the Tory-voting south of the borough).
Parents and local community workers expressed their shock and despair at Mayor Perry’s latest piece of dunderhead decision-making.
One parent told Inside Croydon: “This is short-sighted short-termism that will cost Croydon in the long-term. The size of the saving isn’t worth the loss of provision likely to occur.
“The only function of this is to reduce costs, as these maintained nursery schools are in deficit across the country. Maintained nurseries are a bit of an oddity these days, but they do provide a valuable service, particularly to poorer areas.
“The logic used to suggest that a falling birth rate means that these centres won’t be needed is daft, firstly because there’s currently pressure on places, secondly because cost of living issues are forcing more parents back to work earlier, and thirdly because there’s almost unanimous agreement in parliament that free provision should be increased, which will increase demand.
“Increased demand with a reduction in places will see some parents unable to find nearby provision, and everyone paying more for the ‘extra bits’ of nursery care, given that government funding does a bad job of covering costs.”
The South Norwood Community Kitchen is just around the corner from Crosfield Nursery on Elborough Road, and many parents drop in during the week.
Emma Gardiner, one of the kitchen managers, told Inside Croydon, “Maintained Nursery Schools are one of the most important assets to a community, especially in a borough like Croydon with so mahy families working hard to escape this state-generated trap of poverty and disadvantage that we struggle to live in.
“There is endless evidence for the benefits of early years provision.
“To be honest, we’re sick of stating the obvious. Many SNCK families are limited by Croydon Council and the Conservative government’s constant attack on the basics needed to survive, let alone to flourish.
“Taking away Mantained Nursery Schools is another brutal blow, and yet more evidence of Croydon Council’s disdain for its residents.”
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