Petition of 1,300 names presented to Oaklands College over nursery closure

The Save Acorns Nursery Campaign represents parents, staff, teachers and students

The Save Acorns Nursery Campaign presents Oaklands College Corporation with their petition against the closure. - Credit: Richard Northcroft

A petition of more than 1,300 signatures has been presented to Oaklands College opposing the closure of its nursery school.

The Save Acorns Nursery Campaign, which represents parents, staff, teachers and students, is petitioning the College Corporation to overturn the decision to shut the nursery, originally scheduled for this week.

The group argues that the college had no intention of running nursery facilities despite having special planning permission for the development of the Smallford campus, which actually included constructing a new nursery as part of the Section 106 agreement.

Campaigners have highlighted how the college will be failing to provide childcare provision for staff and students  - in particular for vulnerable families - or a nursery site for the apprenticeship courses in childcare and early years teaching.

They also want to know what is happening to the new £1.1m nursery building, for which specific funding had already been secured through the sale of Green Belt land, and for which planning permission had already been granted under ‘very special circumstances’ in 2017.

Parents have held meetings with the leadership at Oaklands and suggested a range of solutions rather than close the nursery. 

Parent Richard Northcroft said: "We have done everything we can to argue against closure. It has been a huge amount of work for us to undertake, with lots of extra stress on top of everything else. Trying to organise a campaign with only six weeks notice has been very challenging, but I think we have done all we can to try an persuade the college to keep Acorns open. 

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"We have had a lot of support from the public, our MP,  county councillors and local residents associations, and we thank them for that.

"I‘ve lost track of how many out of office replies we have had over the last month, because of the summer holiday period. This has just added to the frustration we feel as parents about how the consultation process has been managed.

"It would seem the senior leadership team has done all it can to close the nursery by default because there will hardly any staff and parents left at the nursery when they hold the review meeting to determine the fate of Acorns.

"We hope that common sense prevails and that the nursery remains open while alternative options are explored, as unravelling Acorns Nursery and starting from scratch again seems pretty stupid.

"The parents and staff feel they have been treated very badly by the college, and we just pray that with new leadership now in place, the principal and chairman look at the situation afresh and reconsider. The consultation process has certainly been handled very badly. It's  damaged the college publicly, and it is very disappointing that a further education college has displayed such terribly low ethical and moral standards.

"I think that Oaklands College should have run a consultation many months ago with staff and parent representatives to decide long term what to do about Acorns. A six week notice period is just ridiculous, and has done the college more harm than good."

Oaklands College director of marketing and admissions David Adler said: "I met with Richard yesterday and we are genuinely very grateful for the input of everybody involved.

"They have all obviously put a lot of hard work and effort into trying to save the nursery. 

"We also met with the parents group last week to discuss various suggestions. 

"We are considering the options that have been presented to us and the viability of those. 

"We have extended the notice period by four weeks should the decision be to close. We are going to come up with our decision imminently. 

"The college wants to reiterate that it is taking the parents' input extremely seriously."