Save Goldsmiths Nursery

Reposted from:

Closure makes no sense

Below are the reasons for closure put forward by Goldsmiths’ Senior Management Team.  As we have challenged each one, they have simply produced another, showing the irrationality of their decision.  We demand that the nursery provision at Goldsmiths continues to run until the time when a bigger, better and fully sustainable nursery can be built.

1/ The nursery must be subsidised by 70K per annum – WRONG
A working party set up by SMT identified 50K of savings, reducing this to 20K per year.  The nursery management staff were excluded from taking part in the working party, and no domain experts took part.  The only external member was a visitor from Greenwich college, who advised Goldsmiths to keep the nursery open and supported the working party’s findings.  It is clear that an expert consultant working in the nursery could identify other savings, perhaps reducing the subsidy to zero.

2/ There was not space in the nursery for the working party’s recommendations – WRONG
The working party’s recommendations included extending provision by three community places.  Measurements conducted by Estates clearly show that there is space for these extra places in the room under consideration.  SMT however misinterpreted these figures by including other rooms.  This misinterpretation was wilful, as the error was pointed out by a working party member prior to the announcement of closure, but disregarded.  Further, the figures were never sent to OFSTED for consideration as was promised.

3/ The nursery only supports a tiny fraction of parents through 23 places; users are a ‘privileged few’ – WRONG
The nursery actually supports around 30 children, due to the flexible part time provision.  Of these several children have two parents who are staff/students at goldsmiths.  The exact figures are unknown by SMT who have not investigated the number of student and staff parents at Goldsmiths.  However the nursery is estimated to support 15-20% of all student and staff parents with children at nursery age.  This could be improved but is a highly significant and highly valued provision.

4/ The subsidy could be better spent elsewhere – WRONG
Parents need on-site provision so that they can breast feed, arrive at work and lectures in a timely manner and reach their child quickly in emergencies.  Students in general do not need money for childcare — of the current users 75% have their nursery fees paid for by the state.  It is impossible to imagine what kind of provision the college could provide apart from an on-site nursery — a creche would be next to useless for staff and most students, who need more than an hour or two here and there. A campus nursery is also best placed to meet the needs of students and staff as it is able to cater for sessional use. By contrast private nurseries charge (often at full cost) for holiday periods and occasional daily use.

5/ Building a new, larger nursery is untenable – WRONG
Recent investigations by SMT have found that a new, much larger nursery could be built and supported by economy of scale.  This makes it clear that the earlier attempt at a build in 2006 was naive, as SMT have themselves admitted.  The chosen site was unsuitable, a result of not consulting properly with anyone with experience in either construction or of nursery provision.

6/ The nursery has been subject to long, detailed review – WRONG
The construction attempt in 2006 was hopelessly naive.  This was followed by an outsourcing attempt that was doomed to failure, giving providers only a couple of months to find places for 30 children — showing complete lack of knowledge of the market, where quality care is already oversubscribed.  The later working party was greatly lacking in domain expertise, but nonetheless came up with highly constructive recommendations which were disregarded by SMT without proper investigation.  Domain experts in Goldsmiths, including John Wadsworth with extensive experience as nursery teacher and OFSTED nursery inspector, have not been consulted throughout the process, and see no justification for closing the nursery.

7/ The unions and users will not consider any alternative until the nursery is closed – WRONG
No alternative has yet been proposed and so cannot be considered.  The parent users have however been open to suggestions, including a business plan for cost neutrality put forward by nursery management staff.

8/ The impact on equality has been assessed – WRONG
The equality assessment produced by SMT is profoundly lacking, not considering the full impact on current users, and not considering the impact on staff or future users at all.  Building a new, larger nursery, subsidised by College would benefit equal opportunities, but closing down current provision and providing no continuity with the new project goes against all equality of opportunity.  It exposes SMT’s review process since 2006 and raises the question of real motive.

9/ The nursery must close due to lack of DDA compliance – WRONG
This was an early claim by SMT, but if it were true, much of the University would have to close tomorrow.  This is an issue for the college as a whole, but is not by any stretch a reason for closure of the nursery.  The current nursery building is not ideal, although OFSTED found no issue with it in their highly positive reporting of the nursery.

10/ ‘It’s not about money’ (Warden Pat Loughrey, 18 June 2010)
What is it about?  If all the evidence points to an on-site nursery as the best childcare provision the College can offer, if the subsidy can be brought down towards zero, if interested parties and domain experts are willing to be involved in making current provision more viable and more available, if we agree that the nursery is crucial to promoting equal opportunities, if the Campaign to keep it open keeps growing in numbers and strength, what is it all about?

11/  The campaign to save the nursery is motivated by a small group of parents wanting to keep their privilege – WRONG
Some of the most active people in this campaign won’t have their children in Goldsmiths nursery next year any way -either for various personal reasons or because their children will be too old for nursery. The commitment of present parents to save the nursery comes from their experience of the service provided and their awareness of its importance for past and future generations of students and staff. Furthermore the campaign has full support from the Students Union, UCU and UNISON, who together represent the interests of all students and staff in the college and not only those with kids in the nursery.

12/ The current nursery users have found alternative provision – WRONG

Many parent nursery users are now faced with leaving their jobs, curtailing their studies, giving up studentships and postdocs and associated research council funding.  Some have found alternative nursery provision though making major life changes at short notice and risking unsettling their child’s development.  Student services promised parents a list of places in local nurseries some weeks ago but this has not been forthcoming — probably because the places do not exist.  Desperate parents have been promised phonecalls by student services only to find they have gone on holiday without fulfilling their promise.  Further, as far as we know, those on the Goldsmiths nursery waiting list who hoped to start their child at nursery in September have not been offered help.

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