Who Needs Nurseries? We Do!

On Wednesday 17 April Grow Your Own held a book launch for Helen Penn’s new book Who Needs Nurseries? We do! published by Policy Press in March 2024. The discussion can be viewed on the video above. Helen Penn and Jenny Williams spoke, and there were contributions from Louise O'Hare of Post Pandemic Childcare Coalition and campaigns to stop closures or cuts to publicly funded childcare in Hackney, Leeds and Wandsworth. See details of the campaigns below, and if you are part of a campaign around childcare please get in touch!

Helen Penn is an activist campaigning for nurseries. She was a founder member of the National Childcare Campaign in the 1970’s and 1980’s and has subsequently been a director of local authority services for young children. For the last 30 years has been an academic at the Institute of Education, University College London, and at the University of East London. Her research has been international as well as national, for organizations such as the EU, OECD and UNICEF.

Jenny Williams has been involved in childcare campaigns and work in the sector since the 1960s. She was a founder of the groundbreaking Maxilla Nursery Centre, and went on to run Colville Nursery Centre, both of which were in North Kensington. Maxilla and Colville Nursery Centres both combined high quality care and education, were state-funded but community controlled, and free for children living in their catchment areas.

Save Hackney's Children's Centres

Hackney Council plans to close or privatise Fernbank & Hillside children’s centre nurseries, and change the provision at Oldhill and Hillside, resulting in the loss of 129 affordable childcare places to Hackney families, many of whom are vulnerable and disadvantaged.

This is a cut of almost a quarter of all subsidised nursery places in Hackney. The Hackney council-run nurseries provide the only affordable daycare for 0–2-year olds in the borough, and employ qualified experienced staff. Meanwhile, private nurseries charge day rates on average £85/day (66% of Hackney median pay), and even charity or ‘social enterprise’ chains charge high rates for most parents, while making use of apprentices who can earn less than minimum wage. Over 50 staff are facing redundancy – during an early years retention crisis.

https://savehackneyschildrenscentres.wordpress.com /

Save Little Owls Nurseries, Leeds

Save Leeds Little Owls Council Run Nurseries Campaign

Leeds City Council has announced plans to close 3 public nurseries and privatise the remaining 12. The Leeds council-run Little Owls nurseries provide vital affordable quality childcare, and many parents are worried they will have to give up work.

They have a petition here calling on Leeds council to cancel these plans and work with trade unions and community campaigns to demand support from central government to fully cover funded nursery places https://www.change.org/p/save-little-owls-nurseries  Contact: [email protected]

Save Wandsworth Maintained Nursery Schools

Wandsworth National Education Union are campaigning against the loss of 20 posts at the three maintained nursery schools (Balham and Eastwood Nursery Schools).

Petition  - https://www.change.org/p/save-wandsworth-local-authority-maintained-nursery-schools

Action network letter - https://actionnetwork.org/letters/save-our-wandsworth-maintained-nurseries?source=email&


Who Needs Nurseries? We Do! examines the current state of early education and childcare in the UK, with a focus on private sector childcare. This timely publication launched just as attention was focused on the government’s large scale expansion of subsidised childcare for working parents. But this expansion relies solely on the private sector, whilst the state sector is being ignored. Recent research suggests that there is a chronic shortage of nursery staff in the private sector, there are insufficient funds for expansion, and big private companies are swallowing up what funds exist. The government can only meet demand by lowering standards – by relying on apprentices rather than qualified staff, and by changing the staff-child ratios.

Private childcare barely existed in 2000 but is now the dominant form of nursery provision. The political and economic decisions that led to the privatization of nursery care were carried out with very little public debate or agreement. Using detailed evidence, the book shows that the results of privatization have been costly, and deeply unfair, exacerbating disadvantage for the poorest children and often inaccessible to disabled children. It also shows that the standards of private provision are often low compared with state or community nurseries, and that Ofsted does a poor regulatory job. The book discusses how these disastrous decisions might be undone, and how fairer and more popular types of provision could be supported and encouraged.

You can buy the book here.