Monday, 8 July 2013

Local Tories fudge Nursery budget

Woodlands School, Gillingham
As I write this it occurs to me that there may be more to this story than meets the eye. Unfortunately I am not in the possession of all the facts but welcome any illuminating info from the other side. Until then I can only go on the information I have gained.

A few months ago the Head teacher of Woodlands Road School called a meeting of parents who attend the nursery to inform us what is going on and how Council cuts will affect the children and fees. Unfortunately I was unable to attend. My wife, who knows more about the child care and our house hold funds went and made some notes.

The Nursery has had it's budget cut by 40%

Not 4, not 20, but 40%

Further to this the Nursery will not be able to accept any children under 2 years old which will have a negative affect on mothers going back to work. This has been the case for my family and after several months of stress and viewing nurseries we've managed to get Oliver into a Private sector nursery that seems good. (it isn't Woodlands but it suits our needs at the moment.) Other parents are still looking.

There hangs a certain amount of uncertainty over the nursery as the 40% will come into being next April and will undoubtedly force prices up for those still at the nursery but there is a massive uncertainty as to by how much as it all depends on the amount of Pupil Premium money that will come into the Nursery and as yet that amount is unknown.

I have spoken with a couple of the staff who have looked after my daughter and they have told me that they have been told there is a probability of redundancies (which the Council will have to pay for) and of staff having to reapply for their jobs. This will rise unemployment and I am exceptionally sorry to say, lower quality at the nursery as I can not speak more highly of the quality of care and support that they give to the kids in their charge. Any loss will be a loss keenly felt. Further to that as Nick Clegg and the Libdems have vetoed the proposed ratio changes the Nursery will not be able to trim off as many staff leaving them possibly out of pocket.

The Nursery is also moving to sessional care (8.30-12:00 and 12:30-15:30) over wrap-around care (7:00-18:00) which restricts how many hours a secondary income earner can work and may mean that they have to give up work altogether if the nursery cannot provide a lunch time supervisor for the kids. How many employers would be happy with members of staff only working school hours? Be they retail workers, shift workers or clerical? Many parents are forced to look to the Private sector or bite the bullet and give up work altogether.

There is also the fact that any babies who have been put into the private sector through necessity, such as my son, may not come back to the nursery when they hit two years old. Although there will be some, who sadly have fallen into average nurseries through necessity, whose parents will swiftly move them when they get the first chance, there are also those who will stick with what they've got especially if they haven't seen Woodlands before. Why would you move your child if they are settled and you don't know that there is an excellent Nursery on your doorstep?

So there is more money not coming into Woodlands on top of the 40% cut and no paying parents for children under two. Whack on the fact that the School (now an Academy) cannot support the nursery financially in any way makes it even more dicey.

The Tory Council is banking on the fact that the Pupil premium and some trimming of "fat" will be enough to cover the costs and it is an exceptionally risky gamble to take with our Children's first steps into education and care as well as with the low income working families of Gillingham South ward and the hard working staff.

It really feels like Cllr Jarrett has got his sums and financial planning horribly wrong and it is the tax payer and working families etc who are going to pick up the brunt again.

I implore Councillor O'Brien, portfolio holder for education and early years, to look at this situation before it spirals out of control and leaves Woodlands either going belly up (in the long run) or forcing privatisation through the back door.


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