Parents come to the rescue to save doomed Marylebone nursery

A Marylebone nursery has been saved from the brink of closure by an opera singer and a solicitor whose children would have been left with nowhere to learn.

Parents at the Welbeck Nursery were given just three weeks’ notice of the school’s closure earlier this summer, threatening the education of dozens of young children who regularly attended.

But two parents who lived nearby were so devastated by the news that they decided to take on the challenge of keeping it open.

Now, five months on, the nursery has reinvented itself as the Marylebone Village Nursery School and is rapidly going from strength to strength.

Frances and John-Paul Preston’s two daughters Ava, four, and Isla, three, had attended the nursery for 18 months when they found out it was set to close.

Faced with the prospect of having to travel outside Marylebone for a nursery or keep their daughters at home, the two of them took on the mammoth task of running a new nursery on the George Street site.

Mrs Preston said: “When we first went to visit the nursery we were struck by how large it was and the atmosphere was great.

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“Then when we got a letter saying the nursery was closing, we thought, ‘you’ve got to be joking’, and we were determined to save it.

“What I was most angry about was that they could just shut the school with three weeks’ notice and not care about the children.”

The hard work was yet to begin though and, from the closure notice in July, the Prestons have been busy ever since.

Having gained support from many of the other parents, the couple cancelled their summer holiday and set about working with Westminster City Council to make the dream of saving the school a reality.

From renegotiating the lease to securing an Ofsted licence and hiring a new headteacher, the work has seen the couple invest countless hours – as well as their own money – into the project.

“I didn’t realise how much hard work it would be at the time, but the support from the community has been great,” said Mrs Preston. “We didn’t have a summer but it’s been really rewarding.

“The most important thing for children is to bring out the best in them and provide the space for them to flourish. This has the space for the children to learn and grow. It’s really nice to be the parent who is helping other parents.

“My daughter will one day turn around and say thank you for keeping the nursery open.”