Acorns Day Nursery decision revealed by Oaklands College bosses
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A decision has been reached on the future of Acorns Day Nursery at Oaklands College.
Despite a hard-fought campaign by parents, staff and other supporters, the college's senior management team has decided to close the current facility at Manor House on the Smallford campus.
The Save Acorns Nursery Campaign sent a petition of more than 1,300 signatures calling on the college to overturn the decision to shut the nursery.
But their efforts failed to sway college management, who today revealed they were pressing ahead with the closure.
A college spokesperson told the Herts Ad: “We are deeply committed to delivering a new nursery facility which remains part of our overall estate plan.
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"We will continue to play a vital role in the community and our incoming Principal, Andrew Slade, who took up post on September 1, is personally keen to ensure that the college and the communities in which we are based enjoy a fruitful and strong relationship.
"This includes future nursery provision and we will work closely with the relevant local authorities and community leaders to take discussions forward for new nursery facilities.
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"In terms of the current nursery facility, however, it is with deep regret that, following the consultation period with staff, having considered a number of options for the current nursery and having met with representatives from the parents’ group, that the college has concluded that the current facility should close – its last day of operation will be Friday October 8.
"We would like to recognise the fantastic work that staff have carried out over the years in the nursery and their ongoing support and ideas for the future, and we would also like to thank parents and the parents group for their genuine and helpful engagement during this time and for which we are grateful and we will actively encourage their input in our discussions about future nursery facilities.
"We are very sorry for the understandable disappointment that this closure will mean for staff and parents and this is not a decision we have come to lightly.
"It is important to emphasise that in considering the costs, we are obligated to ensure the college’s finite resources are focused on core 16+ education. We have explored the financial viability of the current nursery as a whole and in doing so we have concluded that the costs are prohibitive and that therefore the current facility should close.
"We fully recognise that the decision to close the current facility will be unpopular among some of our local community and stakeholders and again we apologise unreservedly for that. Meanwhile, we will work closely with staff and parents over the coming weeks to support them.”
Parents are disappointed with the decision. In a letter to Oaklands College leadership, parent Helen Rickard said: "The decisions made around timescales that were put in place at a period where there was a changeover of leadership.
"This has made it feel very much like you were paying lip service to doing things properly, with little real interest in input from the community or from the staff at Acorns.
"We have been told many conflicting messages over the last few weeks, with no real clarity given at the end of it, and no continuity of message. The lack of response and engagement with affected stakeholders has been truly shocking and I hope that you learn a valuable lesson about how not to undertake processes like this again.
"The college has lost goodwill from many key members and groups in the community and has severely damaged its previously good reputation through its atrocious management and handling of this situation. I expect this will take a lot of work and investment to repair and would not have taken much to avoid.
"To the staff at Acorns, I am so sorry, we tried our hardest to keep you going. Blood, sweat and tears went into trying to make sure that the Leadership team were held to account on their previous promises, and I am devastated that it was ultimately unsuccessful.
"You have all remained extraordinarily professional in such difficult and trying times and have been a testament to your employers, I am just sorry they didn't feel the same. The loss of the nursery is not just a loss to the local community, to the college, but it is a loss to each one of our children who have spent years and months with you as a second family.
"The safe place that you provided, particularly in such uncertain and unprecedented times, and the love and care and lessons you imparted on each and every child in your care will have had a fundamental part to play in their development and their character formation. So, while it may be the end now, the Acorns spirit will be in each of our children forever more. "