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MPs and mayor appeal to government over Tower Hamlets nursery schools facing closure

PUBLISHED: 10:10 25 June 2019 | UPDATED: 10:33 25 June 2019

Even babies join mums' town hall protest in 2018 to stop day nurseries closing. Picture: Mike Brooke

Even babies join mums' town hall protest in 2018 to stop day nurseries closing. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Nursery schools attached to Tower Hamlets primary schools could face being closed down over government spending cuts, the education secretary is being warned.

Parents join opposition councillors and trade unions to picket Tower Hamlets Council in 2018 over threats to nursery education. Picture: Mike BrookeParents join opposition councillors and trade unions to picket Tower Hamlets Council in 2018 over threats to nursery education. Picture: Mike Brooke

Now the mayor has joined MPs and nursery-school head teachers in a direct appeal to Damian Hinds about "the risk of maintained nursery schools closing".

It come in the face of a long-running campaign by parents against the authority itself over closures of separately-funded council day nurseries which have already been closed by town hall budget cuts.

A joint letter to Mr Hinds warns that the funds for nursery schools ends in 2020.

"This leaves them fighting for survival and unable to properly plan for the future," it points out. "We have six nursery schools which need certainty about their budgets. The early education they provide is invaluable."

Mums in 'gag' protest when their delegation was stopped from addressing the council's cabinet meeting over nursery closures. Picture: Mike BrookeMums in 'gag' protest when their delegation was stopped from addressing the council's cabinet meeting over nursery closures. Picture: Mike Brooke

Nursery schools are different from day nurseries and playgroups, having to meet higher standards and having to employ a headteacher, qualified teachers and a special educational needs co-ordinator with level 3 qualifications.

"The government has only announced stop-gap measures for funding," Mayor John Biggs said.

"Headteachers are seriously concerned about what might happen to their nursery schools which are fighting for survival. We urgently need government investment."

The council has committed £500,000 for an additional 10 hours of early education a week for toddlers aged two and three from low-income families on top of the government's allowances.

Yet the authority has faced protests from parents over day nursery closures such as Mary Sandsbrook and John Smith nurseries which shut down this year, with the last one remaining, Overland in Bow, due to close at the end of the month.

Tower Hamlets has the highest rate of child poverty in Britain, the campaigning mums have pointed out. Labour Party members broke away and launched their own women's manifesto at last year's local council elections to fight for the day nurseries.

They even held a "gagging" demo at the town hall last summer when a deputation of mums was refused a chance to put their case directly to the cabinet.

Now the boot is on the other foot, now the council faces the same dilemma with government purse strings pulled tight, putting nursery schools in danger of the same fate as council day nurseries.

The town hall letter to the education secretary appealing for government funding has been signed by the mayor along with Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali and Poplar and Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick MP. Five nursery school head-teachers also put their names to it, from Children's House, Columbia Market, Old Church, Alice Model, Harry Roberts and Rachel Keeling schools, along with the National Education Union's Alex Kenny.

Other East London Advertiser stories on the campaign to save day nurseries:

'Mum's the word' as parents forced into silent protest at Tower Hamlets cabinet meeting over nursery closures

'Don't privatise children's nurseries' campaigners tell Labour's Tower Hamlets women's election manifesto launch

Mums picket as Tower Hamlets mayor says 'yes' to closing children's nurseries

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