Stay of execution for Brodick Nursery

Parents express their concerns at a packed public meeting on Wednesday night.

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By Hugh Boag

Brodick Nursery is to stay open for another year while they try to find a solution to their chronic accommodation plight.

The staff, who face losing their jobs, have agreed a 12 month stay of execution and from August they hope offer the full 1,140 hours child care in morning and afternoon classes in Brodick Hall, if agreed by the hall committee.

But the serious threat of closure still hangs over the village nursery, as highlighted by the Banner last month.

On Wednesday night a public meeting was held to discuss the future of the nursery and gauge the support of parents who may use the service in the future as well as the wider public in evaluating the use of community space.

The nursery is privately run by a parent committee, and Brodick Hall is struggling to meet the needs of the nursery which, in line with Scottish Government policy, wishes to increase its hours to 1,140 from August for all three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds.

The news comes as North Ayrshire Council opens registration for parents with children due to start nursery in August, with the council warning that any parent who registers after the deadline may miss out on their preferred provider, see separate story.

While the nursery currently has 18 children, a potential intake of an additional 20 to 25 ante and pre-school children is expected across the island in August.

Nursery committee chairwoman Jenny Duncan told the Banner that while the nursery would remain open for one year, they could give no commitment beyond that date.

She also said the committee had exhausted all options to find suitable alternative accommodation and what they needed was the continued use of shared community space.

She said: ‘We do not yet have continuous access to the hall from Monday to Friday. This is something that seems to have been quoted several times by North Ayrshire officials but it is not the case. We will also be further exploring the possibility of using some of the library space.’

The possibility of renting a room at Brodick primary school has also been considered, but this, the council say, would require further building works.

Jenny  said any new build accommodation would cost upwards of £250,000 which they could not afford without outside commercial support. She also questioned whether any of the parents would have the time or the inclination to get involved in such a huge project.

The nursery met again earlier this month with North Ayrshire Council but the talks have not been particularly productive. A request for an official to attend Wednesday night’s meeting was turned down.

Caroline Amos, head of service (education) at North Ayrshire Council told Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson. ‘I would firstly like to reassure you that Brodick Nursery can continue to provide 600 hours of early learning and childcare as at present and will be able to deliver 1,140 hours from August 2020, from their current accommodation in Brodick Hall. Whilst there is room for  development of the current premises and the plans for this are currently being scoped, there is no pressing need for this work to be completed by August 2020.

‘NAC is currently in partnership with 17 funded providers of early learning and childcare. Of these, four operate within the third sector and are run by volunteer Boards of Directors. They are: Brodick Nursery, Village Nursery, West Kilbride; Douglas Park Nursery, Largs; and Playtime Nursery, Dalry. NAC’s commitment to the capital requirements of funded providers has been to support them to develop their capital plans, by the provision of architectural and quantity surveyor time to scope a fully costed design that meets their brief and requirements. The council will also support the nurseries with business planning and support to secure the required finance for the works.’

‘Finally, there is more than enough capacity in early years establishments on Arran. Total Capacity in NAC establishments across the island is: 96 places. Current uptake is 36 children. In addition, Brodick Nursery has capacity for 24 children with a current update of 18.

‘Please be assured that we will be working with the manager and the committee to ensure that the high quality is service continued in Brodick Nursery.’

Arran councillor Timothy Billings said: ‘Brodick Nursery has provided its invaluable service to the children of Brodick for many years. However, the increase in provision due to start in August 2020 has brought up a number of issues that could affect the future of the nursery.

‘I have had a number of discussions with council officials and been assured that they will continue to work with Brodick Nursery to find a way forward. I am aware that there is still work underway which is looking at various options for the long-term location of the nursery. I can appreciate that this uncertainty is causing considerable anxiety for both the nursery managers and parents.

‘Other community nurseries in North Ayrshire have had similar issues that have been satisfactorily resolved. Whilst this is a very difficult time for the nursery, I trust that with North Ayrshire Council’s assistance resolution can be found that will give the nursery the stability it needs for a viable future.’

  • See next week’s Banner for a full report on the public meeting.