Council plans to close nursery saying dwindling numbers were draining budget

Thursday, 7 March 2024 22:43

By Christian Barnett, Local Democracy Reporter

A council is pushing ahead with permanently closing a nursery after the number of children attending fell by more than half in five years.

The nursery at Highfields Primary School in Rowley Regis has been ‘temporarily’ closed since September last year but now Sandwell Council is planning to shut it down for good.

Governors voted unanimously more than 12 months ago to shut the doors of its nursery ahead of the start of the academic year saying that falling numbers were putting a strain on the school’s budget.

The request to close the nursery comes alongside a move to change the age range of the school from three-to-11-year-olds to five-to-11-year-olds. 

Council figures show that 47 children were attending the 60-place nursery in 2018/19 but that had fallen to 27 by 2022/23. The nursery offered morning and afternoon sessions with 30 places each but the number of children attending in the afternoon had fallen to zero last year.

The amount of money the school receives depends on the number of children attending in the previous year. With the school still funding a 60-place nursery to the tune of £112,500 and the funding for 27 children only bringing in £65,000, the £47,500 deficit had to be covered using the school’s budget. The council said it could also not afford to cover 30 empty nursery places.

The school said the current number of available places would not change meaning that class sizes from reception to year six would remain the same. The council said the move would not affect staffing. 

Sandwell Council received 10 responses from a month-long consultation it carried out at the end of last year – with seven supporting the closure. 

Cabinet meets on February 13 to approve publishing the ‘statutory proposal’ outlining the closure and if no objections are made during the four-week notice period, permission will be handed to the council’s director of children services to sign off on the plans.

If objections are made, they will have to be debated by the cabinet member for children, young people and education before a final decision is made.


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