Members of the Westminster City Council Labour Group Councillors Barbara Grahame, Guthrie McKie, Rita Begum, Nilavra Mukerji and Patricia McAllister all visited the Mary Patterson Nursery School in Harrow Road Ward on 10th November in order to highlight the National Week of action by Britain’s Nursery Schools.
The aim of the week, set up by the national campaign for Real Nursery Education, is to highlight the unique work nursery schools are doing in these difficult times of budget cuts. This has been prompted by the Government’s announcement that they will not ring-fence funding for nursery schools, instead wishing to see primary schools taking up this role within their current budgets. This will mean closures of nursery schools across the country, including Westminster.
Mary Patterson Nursery, rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, is one of only 4 local authority maintained Nurseries in Westminster, all of which provide an invaluable service in the area, bringing up standards and providing expert training and development for many children especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with Special Educational needs. In the case of Mary Paterson, only 2 parents are able to afford to pay for the nursery place for their children, demonstrating the damaging impact the closures will impact on low income families.
Councillor Barbara Graham, Labour spokesperson for Children and Communities said after the visit:
“With the number of local authority maintained nursery schools being reduced, we are highlighting the excellent work these nurseries are providing to Westminster families. Budgets are being slashed across the board however it would be very short-sighted not to maintain the funding for the nurseries; if the 4 Westminster schools are closed down we would be losing a significant amount of expertise which cannot be recreated elsewhere.”
Westminster City Council currently gives financial support to nursery schools and is saying it will review the decision. Labour councillors will be meeting with Andrew Tagg, Tri Borough Finance Officer, who is in charge of this funding stream to urge for the current funding to remain in place.
The head of Mary Patterson Nursery school Sylvie Gambell thanked all of the Labour councillors for visiting the school. Outlining how important it was to save the local nurseries she stressed that if the four nursery schools were lost, she said; “the expertise and knowledge we hold will be gone forever and with the disappearance of the early years advisory team it will be very difficult for nursery classes, child minders and playgroups to continue to receive the support they need.”