Brent parents are up in arms. First the council decided to close two valued nurseries, Treetops Children’s Centre in Willesden and Harmony Children’s centre in Neasden, and now they are planning to close a third, highly sought after nursery. Another blow to the community in troubled times. Hopscotch Nursery, which was awarded 'outstanding' in it's ofsted report in 2011 and 2012, has been in the Queen’s Park area for 20 years and has been providing parents with a private nursery and also daily stay and play facilities, much needed by parents in the community.
Leigh Steckler 36, has 3 children and lives in the local area, 2 of which have been at Hopscotch nursery.
“If Hopscotch closes, there just isn’t an alternative nursery in the area. There is a serious lack of nursery places in our area, and I was lucky to get my son into Hopscotch in the first place. Brent Council seem to have given up on the situation arguing that they don’t have a duty to keep Hopscotch as it’s not council run.. it’s very sad for all the local parents”
Interestingly, Brent do in fact have a statutory duty, under the 2006 childrens act, to ensure sufficient childcare for working parents. The act says that local authorities must take the strategic lead in their local childcare market, planning, supporting and commissioning childcare by working with local private, voluntary and independent sector providers to meet local need.
So, families in Brent have grounds to require that Brent council provide childcare, but what can be done; a full campaign has been launched to save the long running nursery which sets out to highlight the real lack of nursery provision in the area and the terrible loss to the community if the nursery and drop-in were to close.
Another Hopscotch Mum, Claire Hind 31, says
“I had just moved into the area and had a new baby. I was slightly daunted at the prospect of meeting other mums but I found the drop in details online and went along. I met so many local mums, all with the same age children as me, it was like a little community”
The situation in Brent
- Brent has a high and increasing birth rate relative to the national average and to the London average.
- 30% of families who already use childcare predicted their need for childcare will increase in future (compared to 10% who said it would decrease.)
- 38% of Brent families surveyed need childcare between 8am and 6pm
- 25.8% of parents surveyed reported they were unable to find childcare within the hours they required
The situation in the area surrounding Hopscotch
In the report, 'Kilburn' means Kilburn, Brondesbury Park, Mapesbury and Queen's Park.
All points below were true at the time of publication (Feb 2011.)
- There are 3, 253 nought to four year- olds in Kilburn.
- Compared to other Brent localities, families in Kilburn require the most hours of childcare (average = 28.1 per week)
- Kilburn has no childcare places at playgroup or pre-school (Kingsbury and Wembley have more than 100.)
- It has the lowest number of childminder places in the borough (120 compared to 222 in Willesden.)
- It has the lowest number of vacancies in the borough at both childminders and nurseries
- In 2011 there were only 12 part- time nursery vacancies for 2- 5 year- olds and only two for children over 3 (full time nursery vacancies not reported.)
- In a survey, Kilburn families were the least satisfied in the borough with availability, choice and ease of obtaining childcare
- 54% of Kilburn parents disagreed with the statement: 'there is plenty of childcare available.'
- The report concludes that:
“there may be a lack of choice of childcare (in Kilburn) compared to other localities (and that) The availability of childcare may be more of an acute problem faced by families in Kilburn than it is for families in the rest of Brent.”
This ‘acute’ problem faced by family’s needs to be addressed by the council in providing more childcare in the area and making available there facilities to make sure parents have access to daily drop in centre’s and have a choice about their childcare. Having no option is not an option.
Parents also relayed their fears for affordable childcare if plans to close Hopscotch go ahead. Parents in the borough say that many of them will be forced to give up jobs because of a shortage of affordable nursery places. While Hopscotch costs £33 a day, other local nurseries are said to cost up to £70.
In a report written by the Director of Children and Families in Brent, it states,
“A growing body of evidence shows that good pre-school childcare gives children a head start and leads to better outcomes as they move through school. It also allows children to take part in a wide range of interesting activities that foster their personal development in a safe environment”
Brent are obviously well aware of the advantage of the children in their borough getting the best start in their educational and social lives, so putting parents and children under financial and emotional stress by giving them no alternative childcare seems illogical.
For more information about the possible closure of the much loved Hopscotch nursery, please click here.
To join the Save Hopscotch Nursery campaign, please click here http://savehopscotch.org.uk/