Parents fight back at news of nursery closure

Backlash: Parents and children at First Steps Nursery.
Backlash: Parents and children at First Steps Nursery.

A school nursery used by dozens of families could be shut down and its staff left out of a job at Christmas.

A campaign has been launched so save First Steps Nursery at Hemsworth Arts and Community Academy after parents were told it would close because of financial problems.

Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT), which runs the school, has placed 13 staff at risk of redundancy, saying the nursery has been losing money.

The organisation is facing a backlash from parents who have launched a petition against the closure signed by more than 350 people so far.

Mum Martha Hargrave, whose children Matilda, 3, and Alfie, 4, have been going to First Steps, said there had been little consultation with parents, who were told the closure would take effect from Christmas.

She said: “It has been presented as a done deal to us and we will not take it.

“As over 40 children attend this nursery, there may not be enough local provision to cater for all these children in other settings.

“These children have forged strong solid bonds with their key workers and all staff within the nursery, these attachments are not often easy to replicate with others at such a formative age.”

A Save First Steps Nursery petition on www.change.org is calling on WCAT to leave it open until an alternative premises can be found.

The Station Road nursery was first set up in 2002, partly to help students at Hemsworth Arts and Community College who had children.

The school became an academy when it was taken over by WCAT, which now runs a chain of 20 schools, in August 2013.

In a statement, academy trust bosses said the nursery was running at a loss and had a financial deficit which was predicted to get worse.

The statement said: “Regrettably, Wakefield City Academy Trust’s Board of Directors has taken the difficult decision to propose closing First Steps Nursery, based at Hemsworth Arts and Community Academy.

“Our first priority is our colleagues and the children they look after. We are aware of its importance to the local community and the respect in which its team is held.

“The trust has explored a number of options as part of the review process to determine whether the Nursery can be made financially viable.

“Unfortunately, the trust has not been able to find a solution and the unsustainable losses cannot be allowed to continue.

“The 13 full and part-time staff involved have been informed their posts may be made redundant.

“We are in a 30-day period of consultation during which time the staff have an opportunity to put forward alternative solutions that would prevent the proposed closure.

“The trust has liaised with staff union Unison throughout the process.

“Should the closure take place, we are aiming to avoid compulsory redundancies and have offered to redeploy staff where appropriate.

“We understand this is a difficult time for colleagues involved and are doing what we can to support them.”

The trust runs the nursery through its subsidiary company WCAT Trading Ltd.