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Council Day Care Nurseries - FAQs

Following our recent consultation on the planned closure of London Borough of Tower Hamlets' three local authority day care nurseries, here is a summary of the frequently asked questions. 

Your questions

  1. What is the decision on the three day care nurseries?
  2. What’s the difference between day care and maintained early years provision? Aren’t the three day care nurseries part of your early years provision?
  3. What are the “effective uses” for the funds which the schools thought would benefit more families and children?
  4. What about other nurseries and children’s centres?
  5. Aren’t these day care nurseries for the most deprived children?
  6. Is there provision for children elsewhere?
  7. What about the specialist deaf provision at Overland and other special needs?
  8. What will happen to the staff?
  9.  Why has this decision been made now?
  10. Why isn't there an option to keep at least one of the nurseries open and not close all of them?
  11. The childcare setting my child attends says I can't have childcare funding until my child is three. Is this right?
  12. There is funding for children aged three but what about funding for babies, children birth to three?  
  13. What if the government changes in two or three years' time and there is money available? Will you try to reopen these services? Why can't you keep them open and see what happens?

What is the decision on the three day care nurseries?

At the Cabinet meeting on 26th September the Mayor and Cabinet decided to accept the proposal to close the three LA day care nurseries. 

The report agreed proposed a phased closure of three local authority day nurseries to mitigate the impact on children currently attending them.

Childcare at Mary Sambrook Nursery was temporarily suspended from September 2018, and any children enrolled there were offered places at John Smith or Overland in the interim.

Now that Cabinet has made the decision to close the day care nurseries, Mary Sambrook Nursery will not reopen. John Smith will close at Christmas and Overland (which currently has the largest number of children with special educational needs) will close at the end of July 2019.

What’s the difference between day care and maintained early years provision? Aren’t the three day care nurseries part of your early years provision?

Maintained early years provision includes all the early childhood education and care settings for which the Council is accountable.  This includes the three day care nurseries.  The government entitlements apply to all eligible children whatever early childhood education and care setting they attend.  Parents can request such places in Nursery and Reception classes in primary schools, maintained nursery schools or the local authority run day care nurseries. The schools are not affected by the closure of the three day care nurseries. See a list of the classes and settings available.

What are the “effective uses” for the funds which the schools thought would benefit more families and children?

The Schools Forum suggested an expansion of children’s centre services, the creation of more places for two year olds eligible for Early Learning funding and/or more support and advice for private, voluntary and independent childcare settings.

What about other nurseries and children’s centres?

The three day care nurseries are separate from both children’s centres and our six ‘outstanding’ nursery schools.  The closure of  the day care nurseries will not affect our children’s centres or our nursery schools.

Aren’t these day care nurseries for the most deprived children?

The day care nurseries were originally developed as ‘social care’ nurseries but the means testing requirements were dropped a number of years ago.  There is no evidence that they serve a more deprived or vulnerable group of children than other provision across the borough.  We also believe on the basis of national research that more inclusive models work better, rather than having all deprived and vulnerable children in one place.

Is there provision for children elsewhere?

Yes.  A number of nursery schools are looking to expand, or already have vacancies. Filling these vacancies and supporting expansion will help save these nursery schools.  Their funding from the government has been drastically cut.  The nursery schools also take children under the age of three years.  They have places available for some of the 2,018 neediest two year olds qualifying for the 15 hours Government Funding.  There are also places available in primary school nurseries and in private, voluntary and independent nurseries.

Children can start nursery education at one of the Borough’s primary schools or maintained nursery schools from the age of 3. For more information and to apply please contact pupil services on 020 7364 5006.

What about the specialist deaf provision at Overland and other special needs?

There is no specialist deaf provision or ‘unit’ at Overland.  The high quality, specialist support at Overland is offered by the council’s ‘Support for Learning’ service for children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).  This service would continue and is not affected by this proposal.  The same specialist support is available at all of the schools and nurseries in Tower Hamlets. The expansion of places at Children’s House Maintained Nursery School will enable all deaf children whose parents want an early education place to access one. 

We will be developing provision for deaf children at the ‘Outstanding’ rated Children’s House nursery school.  They have recently added eight new places for two year olds and will be able to take in 12 additional deaf children from September 2018.  They will become the focus for training, support and advice for all early childhood education and care settings offering support to deaf children birth to four in the area. Please contact the school on 0208 980 4662 for further information about places.

With further investment from the Council, Children’s House plan to develop and expand their high quality environment for 24 more disadvantaged two year olds as well

All nursery schools prioritise children with special educational needs and disabilities, and the six nursery schools currently support approximately 180 children with additional needs. All nursery schools prioritise admission to other vulnerable children, including looked after children and children on child protection plans. There are many more nurseries offering similar support in primary schools and even more run by private, voluntary and community organisations.

What will happen to the staff?

The council has supportive policies, processes and procedures in place to ensure that all staff will be treated fairly.  These are called the “organisational change process”.  Staff will be supported by the council and advised by their union, if they are union members.  We are confident that we will reach a conclusion with which staff will be satisfied.

Why has this decision been made now?

Since 2014 the Schools Forum has provided the majority of funding for the day care nurseries. Given the level of Government cuts they have to cope with, they have decided that they will stop providing funding for the day nurseries from September 2018.  The three day care nurseries cost £1.66m per year, and when the schools stop their contribution in September this year, the council would have had to take up this extra cost.  This would mean finding the whole £1.66m from other council services to keep the day care nurseries open.

Why isn't there an option to keep at least one of the nurseries open and not close all of them?

The fixed costs, including staffing, will remain disproportionately high.  Whether the Council operates, one, two or three day care nurseries directly, the funding and operating models preclude a balanced budget. Although the costs would be lower for one day care nursery, the council would still need to find additional money to provide a service for even fewer children, given that the schools forum is withdrawing its funding.

The childcare setting my child attends says I can't have childcare funding until my child is three. Is this right?

40 per cent of two year olds are eligible for early learning for two-year-olds funding nationally.  To find out if you are eligible or not, go to your local children’s centre or ring the Family Information Service on 0207 364 6495.

Here is a list of the Tower Hamlets children’s centres:

  • Around Poplar, 115 Three Colt St, E14 8AP
  • Chrisp Street, 23-27 Market Way, E14 6AH
  • Collingwood, Buckhurst St, E1 5QT
  • Isle of Dogs, Stebondale St, Isle of Dogs, E14 3BX
  • John Smith, 90 Stepney Way, E1 2EN
  • Marner, Devas St, E3 3LL
  • Meath Gardens, 1 Smart St, E2 0SN
  • Mile End, 9 Bede Square, E3 4GY
  • Mowlem, Wadeson St, E2 9DL
  • Ocean, White Horse Road, E1 0ND
  • Ocean at Shadwell, 418-422 Cable street, E1 0AF
  • Overland, ‎60 Parnell Road, E3 2RU
  • Overland at Olga, 25 Medway Road, E3 5DS
  • Wapping & Bigland, 15 Richard St, E1 2JP

It is up to each early education and care setting to decide whether or not to offer places for eligible two year olds.  The government requires settings offering these early learning places to be graded “good” or “outstanding” by Ofsted.  Check the most recent Ofsted gradings.

There is funding for children aged three but what about funding for babies, children birth to three?  As working parents we cannot access the funding for two-years olds.

The funding for two-year-olds is aimed at disadvantaged families and working parents may not be eligible.  It is still worth checking your eligibility at your local children’s centre or by contacting the Family Information Service, or you can find out more here: Free education and childcare for 2-year-olds .  Funding is determined by the government and there is no support for families prior to the two-year-old funding.  The Council has raised this issue at national level.

What if the government changes in two or three years' time and there is money available? Will you try to reopen these services? Why can't you keep them open and see what happens?

The current government may decide to extend the existing entitlements.  There is no possibility that funds for councils to directly run childcare will ever be provided.  The unexpected funding gap means that a solution must be found now.