Bexhill nursery closures: group of parents submit takeover proposal

A group of parents have submitted a proposal to take over the running of two Bexhill nurseries which have been earmarked for closure at the end of the year.

Parents have submitted a proposal to take over the running of two Bexhill nurseries which are earmarked for closure
Parents have submitted a proposal to take over the running of two Bexhill nurseries which are earmarked for closure

East Sussex County Council announced Cygnets, in Egerton Road, and Rainbow, in Ninfield Road, will shut on December 31 as part of a wider set of changes intended to save £2.6m from the authority’s children’s services budget.

The closures would result in 18 redundancies for childcare staff, a significant loss of childcare spaces - around 160 - and a potential loss of income and employment for parents who would be unable to find sufficient childcare for their young children.

Bexhill Family Collective, a not-for-profit, community interest company set up by parents submitted a proposal to the county council on Friday (August 28).

Parents have submitted a proposal to take over the running of two Bexhill nurseries which are earmarked for closure

The group said: "The shortage of childcare places in Bexhill resulting from the proposed closure of Cygnets and Rainbow childcare centres, both rated as outstanding in their latest Ofsted inspections in 2020, would mean a large number of children would be without early years educational opportunities. This would have a significant impact on their quality of life, reducing the opportunities for social interaction and result in potential lack of support for children with special needs."

Plans to close the two nurseries were first announced in 2019, before hundreds signed a petition calling on the county council to rethink their proposed cuts.

In May this year, the county council said it would keep the nurseries open until December 31 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The council said this was to allow time to assess whether other childcare providers in Bexhill would be able to provide sufficient childcare places if the nurseries closed.

In a letter to parents on Friday, July 17, the county council said it had received confirmation there would be enough childcare places for the children in Bexhill and would be moving ahead with the closures.

Bexhill Family Collective said it is of 'paramount importance' the nurseries remain open.

One of the directors Emily Bowler added: “As a working mum these nurseries have provided our family with high quality, affordable childcare which has enabled me to return to work."

Bexhill Family Collective said it is 'unthinkable' to close down top quality educational institutions given the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The group said its leadership would meet the primary needs of staff at risk of losing jobs, parents who want to return to work, children who would gain quality education and businesses and employees who will have opportunity to retain staff.

The group added: "Having good quality educational institutions in Bexhill will no doubt attract new businesses to the area as it will give people the confidence and reassurance they need. In addition, the continuation of the nurseries will provide healthy competition to other nurseries in the area which will lead them to improve and innovate.

"To understand how keeping the nurseries open will positively impact people’s lives, we spoke to parents and people in Bexhill and 100% of the working parents said they were happy to go back to work if they could successfully secure childcare spaces which are limited, expensive, highly competitive and do not always offer the required hours."

The proposal is now being considered by East Sussex County Council.

An East Sussex County Council spokesman said: “We continue to work with private nursery providers in Bexhill who are looking to increase their capacity, and will carefully assess any proposals that come forward that can help ensure sufficient nursery spaces in the area.

“Our decision to close Cygnets and Rainbow nurseries, the only council-run nurseries in the county, was made to enable us to focus our increasingly limited resources on those services making a difference to families with the highest level of need. It’s vital that any decision made on the future of the two nurseries does not result in the council having financial or direct responsibility for nursery services.”