Mums protest at new threat to Tower Hamlets council nurseries saved only 2 years ago
PUBLISHED: 06:00 02 February 2017 | UPDATED: 10:39 02 February 2017
Mums have started a campaign to save three council pre-schools from privatisation in London's deprived East End that only just escaped being shut down two years ago.
A fourth nursery reprieved along with them in 2015 has actually been axed.
The three under threat again include Tower Hamlets council’s flagship Overland pre-school in Bow, which was used in 2011 to stage the launch of a national programme tacking child abuse after the ‘Baby P’ scandal in north London.
Staff at Overland and at Bethnal Green’s Mary Sambrook and Stepney Green’s John Smith nurseries have been warned about cuts which are being thrashed out in the mayor’s budget debate at the Town Hall on February 22.
Parents are furious that their success two years ago could be overturned.
They launch their campaign tonight (Thurs) in Shadwell at a public meeting at Care House in Bigland Street. It follows a meeting with Unison trade union officials last week at Whitechapel’s Ideas Store after nursery workers were warned of privatisation three days before Christmas.
Mum-of-two Nouruja Rahman was due to send her youngest child to Queen Mary day nursery in Bromley-by-Bow the day it closed last year and had to switch to Overland much further away.
“It was a nightmare,” she tells today’s East London Advertiser. “We live miles away in Poplar and I have to drop my child off before going to work. We can’t afford a private nursery if Overland closes.”
The 41-year-old pathology scientist has four hours daily commuting fitting family commitments with her NHS role at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in central London.
Unison’s Tower Hamlets secretary John McLoughlin said: “The parents are angry at the threat to privatise the nurseries when councillors joined protests against former Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s proposals just two years ago to close the same nurseries. Now they are putting them under threat again so soon after.”
The union which is organising tonight’s meeting at Shadwell wants the cuts withdrawn before the council’s budget meeting in three week’s time.
The nurseries also support youngsters with special needs, campaigners point out, Overland for example providing specialist care for deaf children.
The mums have written to Poplar & Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick who has promised to look into the issue. They have also invited Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs to tonight’s meeting at 7pm.
The previous mayor made a U-turn in December, 2014, after parents protested at the Town Hall, and agreed to keep the four nurseries open—but in the event, Queen Mary’s was axed just over a year later, leaving the other three facing today’s renewed threat.
But the Council denies any plans to Overland, John Smith, or Mary Sambrook nurseries. Instead, it is currently in the process of “commissioning new management to run the nurseries”—a move the union says leads towards privatising them.
A Town Hall spokesman said: “The council is working to protect early years services, despite substantial funding cuts. We are one of the first London councils to trial the new 30-hour childcare entitlement scheme, which could help working parents and potentially save them up to £5,000 in childcare costs a year.”
Staff will remain on the same current terms as conditions when the nurseries are privatised, the council assures.
Leading child care experts selected the flagship Overland in 2011 to launch a national campaign for local authority protection to be focused on the child, not on rules and targets, in the wake of the ‘Baby P’ scandal at Haringey in 2008 when a 17-month-old boy died after physical abuse.
Eileen Munro, Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics, pushed for a rethink of child care when she visited Overland nursery in Parnell Road with the-then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Tim Loughton on a fact-finding mission to study local authority care services at first hand.