Opposition to Chichester College student nursery closure

Gemma Warren
Gemma Warren

WORRIED mums have started a petition to protect a Chichester College nursery.

The student nursery, based on the main campus, looks set to close at the end of the academic year, with children being moved to the college’s main nursery, First Steps.

“It’s just diabolical really,” said mum Carla Boyle, with her son Tyler.

“I’ve really relied on this nursery.”

Around 35 children use the nursery, which has 12 members of staff.

Student Gemma Warren, 21, takes her 16-month twins Isabelle and Imogen while she studies three days a week at the college.

She has created an online petition which has gained nearly 200 signatures against the closure.

Staff are currently being consulted over the plans.

Chichester College principal Shelagh Legrave said she very much regretted having to close the nursery.

“The driver is financial. Like every publicly-funded institution, the days when we can subsidise things that lose money because we’re making a surplus have gone,” she said.

Gemma said her daughters had overcome ‘huge milestones’ while at the nursery.

“All the staff are helpful, from opening the door to get my double buggy through to the care and attention put into my children,” she said. “So many learning opportunities for the children, staff and students will be destroyed.

“I put all my trust in the staff and never have I heard a bad word said about the nursery.”

As well as the student nursery, some staff also run an after-school club, which also runs at a loss.

Mrs Legrave said the college would attempt to ‘ring-fence jobs’ to try to minimise staff losses, if the closure went ahead.

Children would be able to go to the First Steps nursery on the campus, which is around five times the size.

Mrs Legrave said she ‘sympathised immensely’.

“Removing those places means parents need to find somewhere else for their children. I have a child myself and I completely sympathise with that.”

The petition is https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/chichester-college-cancel-closure-of-the-student-nursery?recruiter=85329366&utm_campaign=mailto_link&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition.

Government cutbacks

THE PROPOSED closure comes hot on the heels of news the First Steps nursery in Selsey will be forced to close.

Chichester College principal Shelagh Legrave said the moves were unavoidable because of cuts in government funding.

“In the end we’ve got to be financially viable,” she said.

“I hugely regret removing jobs, because it’s a terrible thing to do.”

She said the college faced a 17.5 per cent cut in funding for 18 to 19-year-olds next year, as well as a cut in the adult budget.

She would not disclose the loss made by the student nursery, but said it was ‘substantial’.

The after-school club, which has been part of the student nursery, has been an important service in the area and she did not rule out continuing it, if an alternative option became available.

“We’re obviously considering all options, including whether somebody else would want to run the after-school club,” she said.

“We’ve been prepared to share the financial position with anyone who has expressed an interest in running it.”

News broke a month ago that the Selsey First Steps nursery would close in July, which has 60 places.

The college cited ‘limited numbers taking up full-time places and the high costs associated with delivering first-class childcare’ as the reasons behind the enforced closure.

First Steps is run separately, but contributes to the college’s finances.

Sue Carpenter, the First Steps senior childcare manager, said: “We have some amazing staff who do excellent work at Selsey and we hope to be able to offer as many as possible the opportunity of relocating to another of our settings.”

There are also First Steps branches at the college’s Brinsbury Campus and in North Bersted, both of which Mrs Legrave said were doing well and in no danger of closing, because they were very popular.

“We’re happy to invest where there’s an opportunity to,” she said.

She added the college was ‘committed’ to providing nursery places for students’ children, adding the quality of care in all the nurseries was ‘outstanding’.

The consultation on the student nursery began on March 7 and lasts a month.