Four 'outstanding' nursery schools at risk of closure were thrown a lifeline at last night’s Full Council meeting after Labour councillors won a vote to stop funding cuts.
A successful motion from East Barnet councillor, Rebecca Challice on the Nursery School Review asked for St Margaret's, Brook Hill and Hampden Way Nurseries to be given more time to work on a joint business plan in order to prevent closure.
Cllr Challice, who got the Nursery School Review referred to Full Council for debate, also called for the council meeting to support the Moss Hall Nursery School business plan. The business plan saves the council £160,000 each year from 2016/17 but still maintains a small funding stream to the nursery of £60,000 a year.
In a tense and emotional meeting attended by around 200 members of the public, Cllr Challice asked that a representative from St Margaret’s Nursery be allowed to speak.
Vice Chair of Governors, Andy Ferguson addressed the meeting saying that: "At the outset I would like to point out to you that St Margaret's has received 3 consecutive outstanding OFSTED grades and has been a school in this community for over 100 years. This is evident in the war memorial plaque currently on display in Barnet Museum.
"St Margaret's reluctantly agreed to explore amalgamation under threat of closure. As Governors we have yet to be convinced that the proposal is workable both financially and most importantly in terms of children's education. For this reason we decided not to take a vote to bring the document to council. We had further questions that have not yet been answered satisfactorily.
"We want outstanding Early Years Education to continue in Barnet. If amalgamation is the only way, we have to make it work. Please allow us more time to explore the feasibility of this proposal."
In her speech to the meeting, Cllr Challice said: "We are clearly running the risk that these four excellent nurseries will eventually have to be pared down to offering only a basic level of child care, and we on this side of the chamber will not support a step in the direction of 'bare minimum Barnet'.
"The nurseries themselves have been looking at how they can continue to offer an outstanding service with no resources from the council and have come up with some innovative ideas, but some say they need more time to consider and work on a plan for their future.
"Moss Hall has produced a viable business plan which will save the council £160,000 every year from 2016.
"The council needs to support both the request from some of the nurseries for more time, and the Moss Hall Business Plan."
Cllr Challice's motion was carried by just one vote with the support of all 30 Labour councillors, Lib Dem councillor Jack Cohen, and Conservative councillor Brian Salinger, who is also Chair of Governors at Moss Hall Nursery School.