Nursery closure fears

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ONE of Sheffield’s three remaining council-run nursery schools is facing closure - and question marks are hanging over the other two.

Birley Community Nursery School will be merged with the nearby primary school, if councillors agree to the proposals next week.

Funding arrangements for the three nurseries - Birley, Broomhall and Grace Owen based at Park Hill flats - were changed by the Government last year.

Now they receive cash for every child they admit, rather than for the number of places available, a move which has significantly reduced their income.

The result has been to make the nurseries as they are currently organised - run like primaries, with their own headteacher - unaffordable, says a report to the council’s Cabinet.

Nursery schools also have fewer youngsters from this term following a change of rules which allows four-year-olds to start at primary reception classes.

The estimate is the nurseries could lose a third of their pupils. If nothing is done, Birley will go into the red to the tune of over £400,000 by 2014.

Consultations on the Birley merger will begin this autumn and would see the primary school taking in three-year-olds for the first time, creating a nursery class for 52 children.

The report agrees the nursery school is popular with parents, who choose it rather than opting for private provision.

It has consistently been rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted inspectors and has been praised for how it involves parents in their children’s learning.

But if everything goes to timetable, the 78 place nursery would close at Christmas.

The Birley report says different solutions could be found for Broomhall, the oldest nursery in the city, and Grace Owen, which is over 50 years old.