Group opens new nursery but closes another as underfunding hits

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Sunhill Daycare has opened one new setting, but has been forced to close another because of cost pressures, blaming 30-hours underfunding.

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Sunhill Daycare's £3.5m 90-place Granta Park Montessori Nursery on Cambridge’s biotech campus

The new 90-place Granta Park Montessori Nursery was built with £3.5 million investment from BioMed Realty on Cambridge’s biotech campus Granta Park. The nursery will offer a secure outdoor area adjoining each room to help develop children’s early science skills, and will use the Montessori ethos throughout its practice.

Kirsty Love, head of childcare operations at Sunhill Daycare, said, ‘We are delighted to have moved into our new premises at Granta Park which provides an inspirational environment for children to learn in. We have already had extremely positive feedback from parents on our new premises, and both the children and staff have settled in exceptionally well.’

However, the new opening comes as the group was forced to close its 84-place Basildon setting in July as a result of offering funded places.

The nursery received £4.21 per hour for the places, more than 35 per cent less than its hourly rates.  

Ms Love said, ‘We had a fee increase in April, and all extras, including meals, were charged additionally for funded children, and the cost of these were also increased. However, parents claiming funding opted to bring packed lunches and attend only the fully funded “free” sessions, so this increase had very little impact on the income we received.

‘As the majority of parents at the setting attended the so called “free” fully funded spaces only, this had a significant impact on our sustainability as we had very few fee-paying parents, and most children were claiming funding and the amount received doesn’t cover our costs.’

Managing director Geoff Chapman added, ‘It might seem odd to be opening a brand-new nursery when we have recently closed another in different area. Unfortunately, we find we cannot cover operating costs in demographic areas with a high proportion of funded only attending children whose parents are also reluctant to pay for chargeable extras.

‘The impact of 30 hours, along with recent increases in business rates, means when leases expire we are forced to close these settings. Unfortunately, this situation along with Tax- Free Childcare is not helping parents or nurseries “just about managing”, and I believe the Government needs to rethink not just the level of funding, but the targeting of childcare support.’

heidi-allenThe Granta Park Montessori Nursery was officially opened by South Cambridgeshire MP Heidi Allen last week.

Orestis Tzortzoglou, development director at BioMed Realty added, ‘The new Granta Park daycare centre is a £3.5m investment in additional amenity infrastructure for Granta Park which will complement the adjacent Apiary – our state of the art fitness and leisure centre – and significant improvements undertaken across the Park. This new high-quality facility further cements Granta Park’s position as one of the leading science campuses in the UK.’ 

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