MUMS LED THE way as nursery campaigners went to see the Tower Hamlets Mayor, John Biggs, on Tuesday (15th May) to make the case for Council-run nurseries.
Tower Hamlets Council owns and runs three day care nurseries – but the recent budget, passed by the Council in February, included a commitment to explore privatising the nurseries. The thinking is that there are around 100 other day care nurseries in the borough, run by private and voluntary sector providers – why should the council dip its toe in the water and try to run three nurseries itself? If someone else could take them over, the Council could charge the new provider rent – getting a little income rather than spending out on providing the service.
Campaigners say that flogging off the nurseries would amount to ending the excellent and specialised services which has been provided for years. Some children going to the nurseries have special needs and need extra attention – which is why the staff to child ratio at these nurseries looks high to your average accountant. Some children are vulnerable for reasons other than disability. Any money saved in the short term by putting these children into the general market for nursery places would be paid for in the long term, as these special children would arrive at school without the boost that quality care gives them now.
Campaigners worried that the Council was taking a dim view of what was actually high quality and exceptional provision. During debates on the budget, Cllr Rachael Saunders, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet member for Education and Children’s Services, stated that the nurseries would be better “re-provided” as “the council doesn’t do the job very well”. However, campaigners point out that all three of the Council’s nurseries have been rated “good” by Ofsted within the last two years.
Is the Council comparing chalk with cheese? Although there are many private nursery businesses in the borough, none of them offer the specialised services available at the Council nurseries.
•Mary Sambrook nursery supports children from disadvantaged backgrounds and for whom English is not their first language.
•Forty per cent of children at John Smith nursery have a form of learning disadvantage or disability.
•Overland nursery provides ten part-time nursery spaces for deaf children. When this nursery was threatened with closure in 2014, the National Deaf Children’s Society suggested that the closure could be illegal because it discriminated against children with disabilities.
Mums and campaigners went to the meeting with the mayor hoping to put across what a unique, beneficial and money-saving resource these three nurseries are. Mayor John Biggs has not yet issued a formal public response.