“We are going to fight no matter what”: Camden Council-run Gospel Oak Nursery faces closure as parents battle to save early-years facility

Parents Yami Manchanda-Corless (top left) and Amina Taiwo (top right) are leading the charge to save

Parents Yami Manchanda-Corless (top left) and Amina Taiwo (top right) are leading the charge to save Gospel Oak Nursery. Picture: Yami Manchanda-Corless - Credit: Archant

Anxious parents in Gospel Oak are campaigning to save a council-run nursery.

Camden Council is proposing to close the early-years facility on Lismore Cicrus with three other nurseries, turning them into Sure Start children's centres.

These 'one stop shop' centres, the council says, would focus on the pre-nursery age group, covering family support, speech and language, welfare rights and health visits to redress the fall in the number of three to four-year-olds across the borough, an over-supply of nursery places, and funding reductions imposed in 2017.

However Gospel Oak parents are campaigning to save the nursery and have launched a petition to fight the plans, which has received more than 500 signatures in a week (as of January 15).

Yami Manchanda-Corless, 26, who started the petition and has a 3-year-old daughter at Gospel Oak Nursery, claims communication to parents has been poor during the ongoing consultation period which began on January 2.

She expressed particular concern for pupils with special educational needs, saying: "I think it's really, really terrible. The nursery is a life place, it has kids from all different backgrounds and ethnicities.

"It doesn't represent one particular place in the community, it represents the whole community.

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"I have no idea how this could possibly be a good idea. We are going to fight to save the nursery no matter what." Gospel Oak parent Shauni Warman, whose twin sons are autistic, said: "Before starting at the nursery my sons were mute and had no concept of social situations.

"Now they have made friends, they are communicating and they look forward to going to nursery everyday. The difference I have seen is truly powerful.

"Closure of this nursery puts all of this at risk as I am very fearful they will regress and be fearful of starting relationships."

In addition to Gospel Oak, the other nurseries under threat are Hampden, Kilburn Grange and Konstam. Affected pupils would be moved to nursery classes run by council primary schools.

Other options listed by the local authority, bar its preferred approach of turning the four facilities into Sure Start centres, are to close two of its nuseries, or, at its existing nurseries, make cuts and reduce the number of places.

Cllr Angela Mason, responsible for children, schools and families, said: "The council is consulting on proposals for our early years services to provide a greater focus on children's crucial first 1001 days of life (from birth to two years old).

"Our proposed new approach would aim to narrow the gap of achievement and wellbeing between disadvantaged children and others in the borough.

"The consultation, which runs until 12 February, has been publicised on our website, via social media and email bulletins, as well as with printed publicity in nurseries and children's centres.

"However, because the Gospel Oak Nursery meeting for parents took place early in the consultation we've arranged a further meeting for parents at that nursery on 4 February."

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq added: "A number of parents have been in touch with me to share their concern that Gospel Oak Nursery is threatened with closure.

"The nursery is well regarded in the local community and it is vital that all parties involved can have their say on its future and in good time.

I urge Camden Council to make sure the consultation period is as accessible as possible and that they listen to the strength of feeling from parents, including taking into account the petition which received over 300 signatures in 48 hours."

For further information on the Gospel Oak Nursery proposals, and how to submit a response, click here.