12 Reasons why Siward Road Specialist Nursery should not be closed
The council decision is on Wednesday 11th July, supporters, former parents and parents are invited to attend from 7pm at the Town Hall, marble hall entrance. If it goes through, the nursery will close on July 31st.
1 The nursery is the only specialist nursery in Wandsworth. It provides support for children with autism and with complex needs, and there is already a shortage of places for children with Special Educational Needs, especially in nurseries, and especially for children with complex needs and social and communications difficulties that are turned away from other nurseries and childminders.
2. Parental choice and increasing need: There is an increase in awareness of autism, and earlier diagnosis and so in parents seeking support earlier than when they reach school, but budget cuts means less support for children with autism in schools. Early support before schools is even more important. More parents want to choose Siward Road but are being denyed this choice. During the year referrals from St Georges have been stopped and the nursery isn’t mentioned in the ‘Choosing nursery education brochure for parents. So take up of places has gone down but this does not show that there is less need or demand from parents.
3. Other nurseries are larger, noisier spaces and very often over-whelming for children with autism. Siward Road provides a smaller pace where children can cope and learn to cope and then move onto larger spaces and settings. Lots of children start at a larger nursery but can’t cope or getting moved between nurseries.
4. The reason given for the closure is to save money – it was part of a paper about changes to funding provision – but the total cuts are more than need to be made (£345,000 cuts ‘needed’ but over £700,000 cuts being made, and Siward Road staff cost just over £200,000 per year). This is not good value for money, and cutting this service shifts the financial burden to other nurseries whose budgets are already being reduced, and to parents who will have to take their children to appointments in different places. It could cost more to break up all the provision into different services rather than have in once place. It has been called both ‘a false economy’ and ‘inclusion on the cheap’. We weren’t given comparative costings of the different provision to be able to judge it in the committee, but Siward Road seems very good value for money at the moment. I worry that the Council will realise it needs to have this service in a couple of years time, and it will cost a lot to bring it back – and at what cost to the children who have lost out too?
5. The nursery was rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted last year. All the staff are amazing and should be valued for their care for very vulnerable children, their experience and the unique set of support for children that has been developed aver time and provides very good value for money. This should be celebrated and valued by the Council. Siward Road is a crucial piece of the jigsaw puzzle of provision that makes up special educational needs provision in Wandsworth.
6. The nursery provides different therapists and professionals in one place, rather than parents needing to take their children to and from different appointments and places for the same level of care. This is hard for any parents, very hard for any working parent, and even harder for children who find travelling on public transport very hard.
7. Because it is a specialist nursery only for children with special needs, parents also receive a lot of support from staff and from each other. Instead of being a lone or minority voice, together the parents can be more supportive of each other and this results in better care for their children.
8. Parents were told about the closure only a few weeks before the end of term. They planned on being in the nursery for another year, with time to agree an EHC plan for additional support before going to another nursery where it would be needed. It is being done in such a rush, and for children with so many needs, that it will not be done well, and children will lose out.
9 The decision making process could not result in informed decision by the committee members – we had the paper on Friday for the Tuesday meeting. We didn’t have time to visit the school, find out enough information or being able to assess the arguments put in the paper. There was no Equality Impact and Needs Analysis available, and no information about where children currently there would go. We were told that three children are attending but it is 11. Referrals to the nursery were clearly stopped at some stage, and no new children taken for next year, but we still haven’t been told when referrals to the nursery were stopped. A letter from parents with their views was sent to the presenting officer the day before, but not made available to the committee, and the parents were not told that they could come and speak to the committee, so the committee did not hear parent’s views. If this is the way this decision is handled, it gives no confidence that the council will organise sufficiently good places for the current children and good support during their transition, or alternative SEN support for future children.
10. The council are about to launch a consultation on early years provision in Wandsworth – any major changes like this should be made after the consultation and not before it.
11. Last year the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism researched and published a report which showed that children on the autistic spectrum are being let down by the education system. The focus Siward Road focus on children with complex needs and with social and communications difficulties uniquely met their needs and equipped children better for coping better in an education system which is tough for them.
12. The other Wandsworth Nursery Schools and primary schools are suffering from budget cuts, and Nursery Schools have to pay for all one-to-one support for children before they have their EHC plan. They will not be able to afford to support many of the children who would have been going to Siward Road as they are too young to have had this plan yet. Other nurseries will be less and less able to support children with social and communication difficulties as the budget cuts increase. The 16 places at Siward Road are needed more than ever.
If you think the council should keep Siward Road open, please write to your councillor, and even better arrange to meet with them this week and explain the value of Siward Road.
The full committee paper is here (paras 28 – 31).
To support the current and future parents and the future of school, please sign these two petitions before the Council Meeting on July 11th where the final decision will be made: