By Rosie Woods
Parents have pledged to fight Hackney Council's plan to close St.John's nursery.
"St. John's is a popular nursery that provides a good standard of care", said Janine Booth, whose three-year-old son Alex attends the nursery. "Parents have seen the way that our kids have benefited - they are getting a great start in their education, development and social skills, looked after by skilled professionals in a multi-racial setting. Now Hackney Council wants to take that away.
How do you explain to a toddler that they are going to be separated from their friends, and from adult carers who they like and trust?
This closure will damage our children, and Hackney Council does not seem to care.
"As parents, it is our duty to protect our children, whether from schoolyard bullies or from institutional bullies like Hackney Council."
The parents also reject Councillors' view that the Borough can not afford to keep the nursery open. "The proposal to close St. John's is a disgrace", said Charlie Kimber, father of Eamonn, two. "The report is all about money, and says nothing about children's welfare. A Council that can afford to pay its Managing Director £150,000 per year can afford to keep this nursery open. And a Government that says it is committed to childcare should make sure that public nurseries have the funding they need."
Parents plan to collect hundreds of signatures on a petition and to make the nursery an issue in October's Mayoral election. They also intend to contact other children's services that are under threat, as well as community groups and trade unions. Parents are confident that Hackney residents will support their stand.
"Most people appreciate that nursery provision is good for the community as a whole, as it gives kids a solid start in life," said Jeff Alford, father of three-year-old Miles. "There are around 1,500 kids on the waiting list for Hackney Council nurseries, and this closure will push them even further down the queue. This Borough needs more childcare provision, not less. We are prepared to take whatever action is necessary to protect our children and our community's future."
Council workers' trade union UNISON is backing the parents. "Our members who are nursery workers have been put in a terrible position by the Council, forced to worry about their future when they want to be concentrating on looking after the kids. Hackney UNISON believes that Council workers and local residents need to stand together against the Council's attacks, and to demand that central government gives Hackney the money that a deprived Borough needs to serve its community properly."
As Solidarity goes to press, campaigners are awaiting the result of Hackney Council's Cabinet's vote on the proposal to close the nursery, submitted by Managing Director Max Caller and Education Cabinet member Cllr Ian Peacock.