City accused of ‘jumping the gun’ to shut nursery

Melanie Main has questioned plans to shut Grassmarket Nursery
Melanie Main has questioned plans to shut Grassmarket Nursery
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PLANS to close a city nursery have been slammed amid warnings that the number of children needing pre-school education will rise.

City council chiefs are planning to relocate services from Grassmarket Nursery School in the Old Town to Tollcross Primary School, with a consultation on the proposals running until the end of February.

If the plans are given the green light, children currently attending Grassmarket Nursery will be offered a place in the relocated nursery from August.

There will be space at the primary to accommodate children and staff from the nursery following the move of Tollcross’s Gaelic medium nursery class to Edinburgh’s first Gaelic primary school – Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce – which opens in Leith in August.

But opposition councillors today accused city leaders of “jumping the gun” by planning to “close Grassmarket Nursery permanently” when the number of births is increasing.

Green education spokesperson Councillor Melanie Main said: “We know the primary school roll is rising quite substantially. It clearly follows that there’s a nursery school roll that’s rising.

“Although the nursery numbers are very low at the moment, that can turn around very quickly. We don’t want to close a nursery and find two years later that we have a problem and there’s no space for children to go to nursery locally.”

The Greens pointed out that seven primary schools have closed in Edinburgh over the last five years – with millions of pounds now being spent on school extensions to cope with rising rolls – and said they were keen to avoid a repeat with nurseries.

Councillor Paul Godzik, the city’s education leader, said that the decision to close the seven schools was not taken by the current administration, adding that only nine children currently attended Grassmarket Nursery.

Members of the education committee approved the consultation last month, with a final decision expected to be made at a meeting in May.

The future use of the Grassmarket Nursery building will be examined by the council should closure take place.

Cllr Godzik said: “The facilities at Tollcross Nursery, which are less than a mile away, are a definite improvement on the Grassmarket Nursery which has only nine children currently attending. This includes one child who is the only one to attend a particular afternoon session. Rolls here have been falling for some time.

“From next August, ten new morning and afternoon spaces will become available in Gillespie’s, and with the confirmed support of parents, the four returning nursery children who attend Grassmarket Nursery will transfer to Tollcross Nursery. Therefore, we are actually increasing nursery provision in the area.”

Alison Thornton, Edinburgh secretary of the Educational 
Institute of Scotland, said: “Neither a falling roll nor unused capacity in a school building should be used, in isolation, to determine a school closure or relocation plan.

“Given that the council is having to spend substantial amounts of money to provide additional accommodation at some primary schools whose rolls were significantly increased by the closure of others, it would be ironic if the same situation were to occur in a couple of years for early years’ provision.”

A public meeting has been arranged as part of the consultation at Tollcross Primary on February 7, 6pm-8pm.