Assessment 1 – Third Local Nursery to Close

Third Local Nursery to Close

Westfield Court Nursery is to be closed by The City of Edinburgh council for Health and Safety reasons. Twenty five children will be affected by the closure. They will be relocated to other local nurseries.

The nursery is situated on the seventh floor of a multi-storey block of flats and has been visited several times by members of the Health and Safety team from the council. They have been joined by staff from the Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade on two occasions. Various improvements have been made to the nursery and the building as a result of these visits. Improvements have included smoke detectors, regular inspections and a Fire Risk Assessment and Emergency Evacuation Plan for the Nursery.

 

City Education Leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren said “Because of its situation, Westfield Court Nursery has been subject to special health and safety reviews for some time now. After each review we make adaptations and improvements to the building and to its safety procedures.”

The most recent visit to the nursery by council health and safety officials has resulted in a move for the children attending the nursery. “The latest check revealed that there is nothing more we can do at this stage to address the fire risk associated with getting a large number of small children down seven flights of stairs from the top floor of the block.  The only option open to our health and safety officers has been to recommend a decant to other nursery facilities. We have no option but to take their advice and act on it – I won’t put the safety of children at risk”.

Some parents do not agree with the decision as this will mean an upheaval of daily lives and changes to children’s routines. The nursery is part of the Professional Assessment Group (PAG) and some of the children attending have additional support needs. One mother of an autistic child attending the nursery has a very strong objection to the move. Writing on her blog she says “Christmas and the run-up to it is a very stressful time for autistic children. My daughter (along with the other mainstream children and four other children with complex additional support needs) will now have to deal with that as well as moving to a new setting, a different transport route and new staff. (As will us parents at a crucial time of year) I am so outraged, especially as I was told officially that the setting would be open until June ’11.”

Councillor MacLaren added “I understand that a move may be difficult for parents but I want them to be assured that places are available at the nearby Tynecastle and Calderglen nurseries and that staff will move with children.”

While the council wish to assure the public this is a temporary move, parents and local councillors believe the transfer will be permanent. The majority of children will go to Tynecastle Nursery but those with additional support needs will go to Calderglen Nursery. For most of the children concerned this will result in travelling further to get to nursery.

The council claims the nursery is no longer suitable for the children it houses. However, Councillor Andrew Burns believes the health and safety explanation for the closure is a “smokescreen” for financial reasons. He believes the closure is due to budget cuts made to Nursery Education in February in the Liberal Democrat and Labour Budget. He says “frankly, I simply don’t accept the reasons being given for closure … It’s disgraceful, cowardly and an insult of epic proportions to the parents and children affected”

Another two nurseries have been on the edge of being shut and a final decision will be made by 7th December. Princess Elizabeth and High School Yards nurseries are currently in danger of being closed by the council for financial reasons. If the proposed closures are confirmed they would lead to savings of up to £200,000 and if the buildings are sold, the council could gain up to £250,000 which they would then reinvest into the Children and Families Estate.

The council estimate that next year High School Yards nursery would have 16 children in attendance and Princess Elizabeth would have six. High School Yards nursery can hold 40 full time equivalent places at any one time and Princess Elizabeth can almost quadruple their pupils with a capacity of 24. Should these closures take place children from High School Yards would have options to attend Royal Mile Primary School nursery class or St Leonard’s Nursery School. Children currently attending Princess Elizabeth Nursery would be able to attend Cameron House Nursery School and Prestonfield Primary School nursery class. If these options are unsuitable to the parents, they can also apply for any other nursery in the city.

Councillor Burns believes that the closure of Westfield Court nursery is another step in the council’s plans to save money. After previously stating on his blog that the Liberal Democrat and Labour Budget in February consisted of £302,000 in cuts to nursery schools, he remained sceptical that High School Yards and Princess Elizabeth would be enough to meet this demand. He therefore concludes that the latest closure is more likely due to financial reasons than Health and Safety concerns.

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