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Now nursery closes down due to a lack of children

Closure of Somers Town nursery comes soon after decision to shut down St Aloysius

16 September, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

PARENTS were left “stunned” after finding out their children’s nursery is closing down due to a fall in enrolments.
Somers Town Community Nursery in Ossulston Street broke the news to families on Thursday and it was officially closed the next day.

“We are absolutely gutted,” said Sarah Elie, director of the Somers Town Community Association, which ran the service – previously part-funded by the council. “

They [parents] were stunned and I appreciate that. I said the board and I would be available for support. It is really sad. The staff are supported by Somers Town Community Association. There is not much more we can do.”

The nursery had suffered a fall in financial support because of the decrease in applications.

Its closure comes on the heels of a decision by the Diocese of Westminster, with the approval of the council, to close down the nearby St Aloysius Primary School – the first time a mainstream primary school has ever been shut in Camden – this year.

Again, a lack of enrolments was blamed with officials at the Town Hall citing a falling birth rate and changing housing use in the borough amid warnings that other schools could be at risk of a similar fate.

The decision to close the community nursery was taken by the executive board in June, but Ms Elie was told she could not inform parents for legal reasons whilst organising staff redundancies.

It had 14 children on the roll, out of a total capacity of 18. Two-thirds of the parents have found new nursery spaces for their children.

Ms Elie, who has been at the association for 14 years, said: “There has been a gradual decline of numbers in the past five years. We have tried various different options but if people are not coming through the door, there is not much more we can do. We went from being a full-time nursery to a term-time nursery. But we lost £17,000 last year and had to take out reserves. We can’t keep doing that. We can’t run on that deficit. We have to say is this the best use of our resources and money.”

Richard Lewin, Camden’s director of commissioning, updated councillors on the borough’s birth rate at a meeting of the cross-party children’s scrutiny committee on Monday evening.

“The Greater London Authority have recalculated birth rates and Camden has one of the lowest birth rates in the country,” he said. “This is a problem we know was true but it is worse than we thought. The current surplus in Reception [age 4 and 5] places is at 17 per cent with 1 in 5 places vacant.”

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