Plans by Derby City Council to close Ashgate Nursery School could be one step closer to becoming a reality this Wednesday, as councillors get their say.
An overwhelming number of residents and families voiced their opposition to the council’s proposals during the 7-week consultation period. Over 91% of respondents strongly opposed Ashgate’s planned closure in January 2024.
Derby City Council’s suggestion of moving Ashgate’s pupils to nearby Central Nursery School were also dismissed by more than 82% of those who took part in the online consultation.
UNISON Derby City branch secretary Becky Everett said: “From the very beginning, school staff have told us that the closure felt like a foregone conclusion, and they were incredibly fearful for their future.
“Over 91% of respondents oppose the Ashgate closure yet Derby City Council will likely progress to the next stage of the consultation process at their meeting on Wednesday. This makes a mockery of the process and ignores the concerns of parents and residents who see the school as a focal point for family and community activity.”
UNISON East Midlands regional organiser Emma Roberts said: “It is UNISON’s belief that it will not be possible for the Council to mitigate against the impact on those with a disability that the closure of Ashgate Nursery School may have. There must always be a presumption against closure when consulting with regards to maintained nurseries. That is not the case here. Every inch of the consultation works on the basis it will close with no alternative avenues explored.
“Some SEND children have already experienced their needs not being met in another setting and moving to a completely different school may not be an option. Closing Ashgate will likely impact the council’s budget in areas such as social care and wellbeing and SEND – it’s a false economy.
“There must be fair and long term funding for maintained nursery schools. The early years funding settlement for 2023-24 leaves the early years sector struggling on below inflationary increases. Nursery schools have a history of providing high quality services in some of the most deprived parts of the country. This mustn’t be put at risk by short-sighted actions that will let down children, parents, and whole communities.
“This is yet another example of a cash-strapped Council having to resort to ever more desperate measures after years of Westminster imposed austerity.”
Notes to editors:
The summary of consultation responses and UNISON’s own report can be read here.
UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.