Croydon’s maintained nurseries are relieved to hear the council is considering keeping the schools open following a consultation on their future.

Despite the consultation showing 94.9 per cent of respondents were against school closure, school bosses remain cautious, saying “no guarantees have been given about closures or even the earliest point of closure.”

In its report, the council has maintained a number of alternative models are now being considered.

Mayor Jason Perry said: “A couple of options have come forward through the consultation, so officers are going to take the next three months to look into the viability of those options and work with the schools to see if they are viable. In three months they will make their decision.”

He added: “It was an open consultation and what we’ve now got is a number of options that we are now looking at, which is good. In theory we could have just gone straight out and close the school but instead we went out for a new consultation to get some feedback. The whole point is making them viable for the future.”

However, closure is still a possibility following this review period.

This is a possibility the recently formed Nursery Schools Matter (NSM) campaign aims to prevent.

NSM member Georgia Martin said: “Whilst it is good that the council will be reviewing alternatives, the closure of one or more nursery schools is still a possibility within the next year.

"This is something that should not be on the agenda given the vital work they do and the volume and strength of community regard for the nursery schools’ support of children and their families.

“We are proud of the community response to the consultation on nursery closures.

"By coming together, families and our community have given a clear message of what these nurseries mean to us and the value they have in our lives.”

The consultation, which began in July, set out to determine whether to shut or merge five nurseries it runs in the borough.

The consultation came under fire from participants, who believed the presumptive questionnaire had already made its mind up about the closure of nurseries.

Despite this, the authority said "urgent" decisions need to be made as the maintained nursery schools have a shortfall of more than £500,000.

Throughout the consultation, Mr Perry has been keen to repeat the line “doing nothing is not an option”.

The five nurseries, Purley Nursery, Selhurst Nursery, Tunstall Nursery, Crosfield Nursery and Thornton Heath Nursery are run and funded by the council and offer free schooling to children aged three to five.

The NSM believe the nurseries play a vital role in supporting parents who cannot afford expensive nursery schooling in the borough. 

Your Local Guardian: The nursery school at Selhurst Children's Centre is one of five in CroydonThe nursery school at Selhurst Children's Centre is one of five in Croydon

Alaina Packer-Searle, a Maintained Nursery School Governor told the LDRS: “Croydon’s maintained nursery schools have offered valuable early education and care to children and families for decades and the strength of feeling in support of their future longevity has radiated through the consultation responses.

"Whilst there are still no concrete reassurances against closure at this time, collaborative, solution focused conversations regarding the financially viable options that Croydon’s MNS could adopt are welcomed.”

In their cabinet report, Croydon Council claims that “currently, there is sufficient and diverse supply of early education and childcare provision available across the borough to meet demand.”

However, the NSM campaign disagrees, saying: “The council hasn’t addressed provision of early years places for children with additional needs, or the accessibility of affordable early years education.  Between 2015 and 2022 maintained nursery schools in Croydon accounted for 16-18 per cent of three year olds on roll at state funded providers, yet had 31-42 per cent of all three year  olds receiving SEN support in state funded settings.”

Non educational groups have also shown concern over the future of the schools, and have expressed criticism over the council’s wider effort to balance the books.

Emma Gardiner, Project Lead at South Norwood Community Kitchen is one such individual.

She told the LDRS: “We cannot allow our community to be continually stripped of its assets to claw back cash. Residents of Croydon hold no responsibility for the Council’s bankruptcy yet are once again not only footing the bill but losing the very fabric of their community through the loss of spaces designated for public benefit. We won’t let this happen.”  

When approached for comment, Mayor Perry said: “These five schools form part of Croydon’s wide range of early years education and childcare options and are an important part of their local communities.

“We are doing everything possible to secure their future, but doing nothing is not an option. I’d like to thank all the parents and other contributors for taking part in this informal consultation – we will continue to listen and make sure their views help inform decisions on the proposals.”