Outstanding Devon nursery faces closure

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Chestnut Nursery in Brixham, Devon, is facing closure after the council which runs it announced earlier this month that it plans to close it down.

Torbay Council’s reason for the proposed closure is a falling demand for nursery places. It has estimated that there are more than 170 vacant sessions at Chestnut Nursery each week.

The council ran a consultation between 16 and 26 November, but following protests from parents about the short period of consultation time, this has now been extended to 7 January 2013. The council will decide in February whether to close the nursery that month.

A Torbay Council spokesman said, ‘During the extended consultation period we will continue to provide information and support to enable people to explore other options. This will also provide further opportunities for Torbay Council to work with Brixham Council and other stakeholders to examine the future viability of daycare and nursery provision in Brixham and seek sustainable solutions for the future.’

Chestnut Nursery, which was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in its most recent report, opened six years ago. It provides wrap-around care for children up to five. The purpose-built nursery has an outdoor space with grass, trees, a sensory room and a separate room for sleeping.

Parents have been running a campaign supported by Brixham Town councillors, local residents and businesses. They say they have failed to find appropriate places for their children with any of the registered childcare providers in Brixham.

Brixham Town Councillor Lynne Armstrong said, ‘Early years education and childcare for hardworking parents is not a business, it is an investment in attracting young people to Brixham and preparing their children for achieving their potential at school.’

Parent Jane Smith, whose two-and-a-half year old daughter, goes to the nursery, said, ‘My daughter went through an awful lot of change in the first 18 months of her life. It took her a long time to settle into the nursery. The thought of having to move her again when she only started there in January is very upsetting. She’s very happy there.’

Mrs Smith, who is a nurse and works 12 and a half hours a day, added, ‘I can go to work and switch off because I know that she’s safe and if there is a problem they will ring me.’

Mrs Smith faces weeks and months of uncertainty if the nursery closes down. ‘I work every week of the year. I don’t want a nursery that is only open during school term time and only until 3pm. I need one that’s open all year round and I can rely on to be able to do my job.’  

If the nursery were to close down, that would disrupt the life of parent Laura Cameron and her family. Her daughter, who will be three in March, has been attending the nursery since she was one.

Ms Cameron, who works four days a week and travels 35 miles to work, said, ‘It would be devastating. We’re going to have to find her another nursery in a different town. It will not be a familiar environment. She’s got a strong emotional attachment to staff that work at Chestnut Nursery.’

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