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Brodick Nursery could have to close its doors by August this year if a solution cannot be found to a problem that has arisen due to the roll-out of a Scottish Government initiative which will extend nursery hours in a bid to relieve pressure on parents.
The Scottish Government has invested £2 billion towards increasing funded childcare for two, three and four-year-olds from 600 hours to 1,140 hours in an effort aimed at helping parents and carers to explore work, education and training opportunities.
And while this is good news for the five council-funded nurseries on the island, it presents a number of issues for Brodick Nursery, which is a non-profit nursery run by a committee of parents. Brodick Nursery currently receives an allocated childcare allowance which assists with some of the costs but it does not cover rent, running costs, wages and other required resources.
If Brodick Nursery is to expand its hours in line with Government policy it will experience a huge increase in costs and resources and, as it is housed in the Brodick Village Hall, it will mean that the premises would become unsuitable and the service will be unable to meet these new requirements.
Currently the premises are not purpose-built for nursery use and staff have to ‘set up and take down’ the nursery on a daily basis to accommodate other events. The kitchen facilities are too small for anything other than providing light snacks, and children need to use public toilet facilities shared with the Arran Library. While not ideal, the situation has been tenable, but when the expanded hours are introduced it will become unworkable.
The Brodick Nursery parent committee has been aware of the issue for some time and over the last 10 months has been looking at workable solutions to the problem. Working with North Ayrshire Council, a number of meetings have been held, which included looking at expanding Brodick Hall – which will need to be self funded to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds – and finding alternative premises, as well as seeking financial assistance from outside bodies.
So far no viable alternative premises have been identified and purchasing land upon which to build a purpose-built, albeit affordable, solution is not within Brodick Nursery’s financial capabilities.
The nursery has consistently raised funds to sustain itself and committee members have investigated various funding options but the cost implications, they believe, are beyond the realm of possibility without financial assistance from an external source.
At a recent meeting held with the committee and concerned parents, chairperson of the Brodick Nursery committee Jenny Duncan said: ‘We have tried to remain positive and proactive with the imminent delivery of the expanded nursery hours in August, but have exhausted many options available to us in terms of location, funding and the general security of being able to remain operational as a parent-run nursery within our own village of Brodick.
‘The implications for the community would be dire if the nursery closed as the nearest alternatives would be Lamlash and Corrie nurseries. Both of these would be under immense pressure to cope with the huge additional demand, especially considering that a potential intake of an additional 20 to 25 ante and pre-schoolers is expected by August.
‘The parents, committee and nursery manager Aileen Brand have received huge support from the community who have helped to keep this community asset available for our children. The potential loss of the facility will not only have severe cost implications for North Ayrshire Council, not to mention the disruption to the children and parents of the village, but it will also have the opposite effect of what the initiative was trying to achieve – allowing parents to explore work, education and training opportunities.
‘With registration starting next month, an additional concern is that parents will be enrolling their children in a nursery which faces an uncertain future. We need practical solutions and we need things to start happening now so that whatever the solution is, it is up and running by August if we want to save our local nursery.’
A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: ‘We are hugely sympathetic to the position of Brodick Early Years. We have supported them in their consideration of a range of options and will continue to work with them and the parents in the days and weeks ahead.’
Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson said that he is quite astonished by the development and that he would take it up with Caroline Amos, head of service (Education) at NAC and Maree Todd MSP, Minister for children and young people, to see if solutions can be found.
Mr Gibson added: ‘The SNP Government has allocated £11,400,000 in capital – to physically expand facilities – and £13,549,000 in resources – to employ and train additional staff.
‘These resources are to equip nurseries across the board, private, public and voluntary and this goes against the grain. I have asked NAC what contingency they will put in place to ensure delivery of 1,140 hours of free nursery provision for all who qualify if they will not provide capital funding.’