Monday, 3 August 2009

Full scale of university nursery cuts exposed by Unison

By Catherine Gaunt, Nursery World, 29 July 2009

UP TO 20 nurseries on university and college campuses are facing closure, the union Unison has revealed.

The figures come from preliminary findings of a survey of Unison members, which have revealed the high number and pace of the nursery closures.
The union said universities and colleges are facing funding cuts of up to £400m and that nurseries are bearing the brunt of a cost-cutting exercise.
It warned that nurseries are essential amenities and that their closure will mean that many parents will not be able to continue their studies at further and higher education level, which goes against the Government's 14-19 agenda to open up access to young people, especially young parents.

Cuts will also have an impact on retraining and skills development during the recession. Many of those further and higher education institutions that have earmarked their nurseries for closure offer childcare qualifications.

They include London Metropolitan University, Sheffield University, the University of the West of England, Goldsmiths at the University of London, University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, Bridgwater College, Somerset, Ebbw Vale College, Middlesbrough College, Manchester College and Grantham College.

Last week Nursery World revealed that Unison and nursery staff at the University of Westminster are campaigning to save the university's two nurseries, which are due to close in September (News, 23 July). The union has warned of a crisis for college and university nurseries and has launched a joint campaign with the National Union of Students and the teaching unions to fight the closures.

The 'Meet the Parents' report by the NUS highlighted the shortage of campus childcare, which was often oversubscribed (News, 30 April). Unison has written to ministers and the higher and further education funding councils and will shortly meet David Lammy, Minister for Higher Education.

Ben Thomas, Unison national officer for children's services, said, 'Because teaching and learning have to be prioritised, essential but non-core services such as nurseries are suffering. This is a tragedy for children and nursery staff. The nurseries provide a vital service for students. Workplace nurseries are a key tool in allowing colleges to meet government targets on increasing participation in education and on re-skilling the workforce at a time of recession. Closing nurseries may provide a short-term cost saving but will have a long-term impact on the ability of these institutions to attract and retain the students they are meant to be targeting.'

Read the article at Nursery World here

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