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Parents in Highgate and Kilburn join fight to save nurseries from closure

Working parents say "we do need these nurseries"

06 February, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Terri Leer at Konstam Nursery with sons Alex and Freddie

Parents at a nursery in Highgate are pleading with the council to back down from plans that could see it shut down.

Camden is currently consulting on the future of its council-run nurseries at Gospel Oak, Somers Town and Kilburn Grange, as well as Konstam in Chester Road.

Options include closing down all four, shutting two or reducing the number of intake and moving children to primary school nurseries.

The nurseries would then be repurposed as “Sure Start” centres with focus on services for children under two.

But Tayla Kelly, who has a three-year-old at Konstam Nursery, said: “I wouldn’t know what to do [if the nursery closed]. This place is so good for her. It’s socialised her. She was referred to have speech and language therapy but since coming here her speech has really improved.”

Parent Nadia Aasmi, who lives in Croftdown Road, said: “It’s a good nursery. They do such a good job. My kid is autistic but he gets such good support from this nursery. “Routine is very important for children with autism. He doesn’t cope well with change.”

Terri Leer, who has two children at the nursery, said: “I have formed a family with this place. For it to change would be devastating.”

She added: “Both my children had bad speech but here they do one-to-one and within a couple of months they both came out of their shell.”

Meanwhile, parents from Kilburn Grange Nursery launched a petition with more than 200 signatures, calling for their nursery to be saved.

Hugo Pierre from Camden UNISON said: “The council really needs to start looking at early years provision once maternity leave has finished.

“We think the council should have more wrap-around, targeted and more integrated services so when a women is pregnant, the council can target them with the offer of provision from the get-go.”

Camden want to make £600,000 worth of savings from the early years budget and say the number of three-and four-year-olds in Camden has decreased by about 500, with some wards having seen a 20 per cent or more reduction.

Two nurseries closed last year – St Aloysius and the Sure Start-funded Somers Town Community Nursery – after a fall in enrolments. Numbers at Konstam Nursery in Highgate have remained static for the past three years.

“We know working parents will suffer,” said Mr Pierre. “We hear from parents they [the council] are not doing the work to make clear the spaces are there.

“If they were to advertise and promote outstanding spaces in nurseries, perhaps they could be filled. Why get rid of outstanding provision? It’s absolute nonsense.”

He added: “With all these new developments going up, unless the council has not done their homework right and these places are just built for oligarchs to buy up. They should be for social housing and bring in more families.”

Education chief Councillor Angela Mason said: “Our proposed new approach would aim to narrow the gap of achievement and wellbeing between disadvantaged children and others in the borough. The proposed changes also aim to address the high level of vacancies in council and school nurseries.”

She added: “Our preferred option, as set out in the consultation, is not to close any of our early years buildings but for four of our council-run nurseries, to become Sure Start children’s centres, offering a range of early years and family support services focused on children’s first 1001 days, including support for things like speech and language therapy.”

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