There was shock and upset at Lynn’s College of West Anglia this week when bosses announced they could close its children’s nursery to help plug a £2 million funding gap.
Parents have been warned the college’s Apple Wood Children’s Nursery could shut by the end of July – with the potential loss of 15 full and part-time jobs.
College principal David Pomfret said in light of the government’s ongoing austerity cuts, the college cannot afford to subsidise a facility that is not part of its “core business” of teaching and learning.
He said the proposal to close the nursery was one of a number of cost-saving ideas to meet a £2 million deficit for the 2015/2016 financial year.
Consultations with staff will run until May 1, with final decisions being taken by the college’s governing body in late May.
Parents who send their children to the nursery, which is open to college students and staff as well as the general public, fear they may have to give up their studies or jobs if it were to close.
Student Kayleigh Enefer, 19, from Clenchwarton, whose 20-month-old daughter Sophia attends the nursery, has now set up a petition in the college, and another online, urging a re-think.
“It was just such a surprise. I didn’t think such a good, well-used nursery could be at risk of closing,” she said.
“I am trying to make a better future for myself and my daughter, but I could have to give up my studies if the nursery closes as there’s no-one else available to look after her. I could try another nursery but even if there was space, there’s no guarantee she would be able to go on the same days I have lessons.
“I want the college to reconsider as the nursery means so much to so many people, and the staff are so lovely.
“When my daughter first started going I was scared to leave her with anyone, but thanks to the staff I quickly got over that. It’s been an incredible experience for both of us, and Sophia absolutely loves it there. If it closed it would such a massive loss to everyone.”
Another mum, whose three-year-old son is part of the 30 per cent of enrolments from outside the college, said she could lose her part-time admin job if the nursery closed. Sophie Nicol, 30, of Lynn, said her son Alfie started at the nursery, which caters for up to 54 children aged from two months to five years, when he was ten months old.
“I’m a single mum so if I can’t get him into another nursery I’m not going to be able to get to work either. It will be the same for all the students who won’t be able to complete their courses.
“If the college had just asked us to pay a bit more per week, then I wouldn’t have minded paying because he’s so happy there.”
Mr Pomfret said: “Although the nursery undoubtedly provides a high quality service, it has never managed to cover its costs and, with further cuts expected next year, we do not feel we can afford to subsidise a facility that is not a central aspect of our core business.”