Save Lavender Nursery

Save Lavender Nursery

0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,500!
At 1,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!
Tessa Strampfer-Kinsey started this petition to Merton Council

Lavender Nursery is a fantastic early years educational provider based in Mitcham, South West London. Merton Council are proposing to close (or potentially relocate less than half of the service) in order to vacate the current property for Merton Medical Education Services (MMES). A consultation was held to see if the public agree with closing the nursery, which received 221 objections and only 19 favourable responses. However, the council are still pushing to close the nursery. 

See the full consultation here:

https://consult.merton.gov.uk/KMS/dmart.aspx?strTab=PublicDMart&NoIP=1&filter_status=2

See full consultation responses here: 

https://democracy.merton.gov.uk/documents/s39488/Appx%201%20Lavender%20Nursery%20Consultation%20responses.pdf

We agree that a new location is essential for MMES but disagree that the Lavender Nursery site at London Road, Mitcham is the right location. The nursery provides childcare 5 days per week, 8am-6pm, 50 weeks per year for 2-4 year olds. The nursery was purpose built for early years education and is perfectly located next to a playground meant for younger children. The site is not suitable for older children and will require extensive modifications at public expense, to adjust it for their use. 

The alternative solutions the council have proposed, for parents who want their children to attend Lavender, are inadequate and incomparable to the current provision. School nurseries only begin from the term after a child's 3rd birthday so are not suitable for 1-3 year olds. There is insufficient childcare for pre-school children in the wards served by Lavender Nursery as shown by the Childhood Sufficiency Report 2020 and as detailed in the LNPA formal objection report to the consultation, available below.

The alternative sites proposed by the council (if they decide to relocate the nursery) will only be able to accommodate  24 full time equivalent places. Lavender Nursery currently has 80 part time and 48 full time places with a large waiting list. The Council believes that there is low demand in the area and there is enough provision in the private sector which is clearly not the case, as evidenced in the LNPA report and the Childhood Sufficiency report.

Merton local authorities’ decision to close the ‘baby room’ provision at Lavender in 2018, despite it’s waiting list and continuous demand for under 2’s nursery spaces, call in question premeditated decisions to shrink the overall usage of the building in favour of this consultation for MMES to relocate to Lavender Nursery, with the aim of falsely presenting an under subscribed service with a lack of demand. 

Major concerns have been raised by the London Mayor's Office about the substantial impact and loss of Early Years childcare provision as a result of the global pandemic, which have been supported by Sadiq Khan. It is inconceivable that at Labour lead local authority, would defy the lead from City Hall with the proposal to eradicate a thriving and highly in demand nursery at a time of such community need. 

Closing the nursery will have a devastating impact on local families and reduce the quality of education and care provided in Merton (and surrounding boroughs) for the under 5s also resulting in many staff job losses.

We implore the Council to reconsider their plans to close this well loved nursery and find an alternative solution for MMES. 

We look forward to your response on this urgent issue.

 

Lavender Nursery Parents Association Consultation Response 

Summary 

The Lavender Nursery Parents Association [LNPA] is a group of parents and carers of children  at the Nursery, former pupils, and children on the waiting list. We have considered the current  proposal put forward by Merton Council and have concluded that we are unanimously opposed  to the proposal to close Lavender Nursery, London Road, Mitcham, in August 2021. 

Merton Council’s proposal to close Lavender Nursery shows a clear misunderstanding of the  requirements of childcare for local parents and the suggested alternatives are not applicable to the  vast majority of the children. The local authorities admission criteria does not allow children aged  2-3 years old to attend nursery classes within primary schools, which is where we understand the  majority of the vacancies outlined in Merton Council's proposal are highlighted to be (and even  when they turn 3 they cannot attend until the term after their third birthday). Additionally these  nursery places are unsuitable for working families who require childcare from 7.45-6pm and all  year round [school nurseries are only available term time only]. Although some schools provide  wrap around & holiday care, the majority of these are not available for the 3-4 years age group.  The council's proposal also fails to consider the financial, logistical, emotional and environmental  impact of uprooting those children to alternative childcare providers, for which this report evidences  an average 30% increase on childcare costs as a result of this displacement. 

The LNPA have found that the suggested decrease in demand for affordable, safe, purposeful,  and forward thinking Early Years childcare is unfounded and in fact many of the council’s  policies [The Local Plan, Childcare Sufficiency in Merton (2020)] contradict the proposal to reduce the number of Early Year childcare places in the local area. Merton Council’s continued  regeneration ambitions, in particular to encourage young people to move to the area, will  inevitably require enhanced Early Years education facilities and whilst the LNPA recognise  the validity in the need for young people’s medical educational services, it is very likely that  an increase in the young family population will demand a higher ratio of EYFS childcare, over  that required to support the number of pupils across the local area with medical educational  needs. It is the LNPA’s opinion that the council’s proposal is, in this case, short sighted and  fails to future-proof the local area and its own budget requirements. 

The council's consultation document fails to detail adequate information on alternative sites  that have been explored for the relocation of Merton Medical Educational Services [Canterbury  Road Campus]. Merton Council note in their proposal, that MMES ‘have outgrown their  previous accommodation at the Canterbury Road campus, Morden. They are currently in  temporary provision but require a permanent, suitable home’. However it is evident from the  Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Panel meeting held on Wednesday 10th  February 2021, that Merton Council have failed to fully consider alternative sites within the  borough, including the Whatley Avenue site. Whatley Avenue is currently unoccupied, having  most recently been utilised as a temporary site for Harris Academy Wimbledon for its 360  students. The LNPA understand that Merton Council propose to use this site for specialist  SEN provision for up to 90 pupils and therefore the LNPA suggest the site has enough capacity  to house both this SEN provision and the requirements of MMES, while still ensuring  appropriate segregation of the two services and their individual needs. This also leaves space  for both these provisions to grow in future years, unlike the current Lavender Nursery site.  Merton council’s solution to the rehousing of MMES will subsequently deplete and disperse a  fully functioning, highly in demand and successful Early Years childcare facility which serves  its own residing families. It is not clear from the current proposal what other alternative sites  have been analysed for the relocation of MMES and therefore why the proposal is to relocate 

MMES some 2.5 miles across the Borough. It would be reasonable to assume that this drastic  relocation will inevitably have an impact on its current families who will be required to incur  additional upheaval in transportation to get to the Lavender Road, London Road site, should  the proposal go ahead. 

In addition and in light of the current global pandemic, the LNPA believe Merton council has  been unreasonable in the time scale provided for this consultation, given the gravity of the  impact of the nursery's closure on families and its own staff. The LNPA believe that the council  have deliberately failed to effectively inform other groups that are directly impacted and, more  generally the wider community, of the consultation proposal, assuming this will be a matter  affecting only those families currently on-roll. Again this approach is short-sighted and divisive,  excluding parents who were previously on the waiting list, who may well be expecting their  child to attend and have Lavender Nursery earmarked as their local nursery, as well as all  those families whose children have received the wonderful care and education provided at  Lavender Nursery, who will be personally affected. 

Whilst the LNPA appreciates the councils position in needing to find an alternative site for  MMES, we fail to understand why this must come at the enormous cost of the closure of  Lavender Nursery and how the council have justifiably arrived at the position that the only alternative site across the entire borough is a hugely in demand, incredibly successful and  vital early years childcare provider. 

The LNPA urges the council to reconsider its position on targeting Lavender Nursery as the  only appropriate site for Merton Medical Education Services. 

Introduction 

This response is written on behalf of the LNPA with regards to the recent proposal and  consultation for the closure of Lavender Nursery [London Road] to allow for the expansion of  Merton Medical Education Service provision. 

Firstly, we would like it noted that the approach and timing of this consultation period by the  Local Authority feels much like an ‘afterthought’. Lavender Nursery is a vital community hub,  providing safe, regulated and highly impactful childcare and Early Years Education to  approximately 100 children of Merton borough. It does appear from the short natured and  short sighted approach to this consultation, that the importance of the nursery’s impact on its  local community has been neglected by the Local Authority and it is the LA’s intention to  forcibly escalate this matter without due care and consideration on the impact this poses to its  own community. 

Formal consultation should in any case, allow open, unbiased discussions for all affected  parties and as such we expect that this response is given appropriate consideration when  reaching a decision.

Consultation Concerns 

The LNPA have noted that your consultation was published on Monday 24th January 2021  and is due to close on 22nd February 2021. This allows, in a time of national lockdown, for 30  days in which families have to receive, digest, understand, research alternatives, collate and  respond to your consultation. This is assuming that all those impacted are in fact able to  access the resources required to take the aforementioned steps. It is highly likely that there  are very many within the groups impacted by this proposal who may be the vulnerable,  clinically shielding, those for whom English is not their first language or those from deprived  households with little access to the current platforms used for this consultation [internet and  email correspondence], they will have less opportunity or may find it difficult to respond to the  consultation. The only people in the local wards who have been directly contacted about the  consultation are the parents & carers of Lavender Nursery, the consultation could have been  better promoted by the Council through ward Councillors or the local MP as there may be  many other people who will be impacted who are unaware . 

In addition, and most concerning, we understand there to be a number of legal documents  that have been omitted from the consultation. We request to see the Authority Monitoring  Report [AMR] as a matter of urgency and understand this is a legal matter that must be  adhered to before any decision can be made on this consultation. It is also noted that the  published Merton Council Local Plan, held on your website was out of date until part way  through the consultation window. GIven the proposed changes are to buildings and that this  is a planning matter, we are extremely concerned that the proposal consistently contravenes  your borough's Statement of Community Involvement [SCI] June 2020. Your SCI states its  agenda to; 

Be transparent in the way that consultations are carried out. 

We would argue that the short natured timeframe to the consultation suggests that the  council’s perspective on this consultation is one merely of formality and is not in the true ‘spirit’  of a consultation. One which protects and promotes the community's voice and allows for  feedback to be received and given and for true consideration be applied at senior level to the  points raised. Our feeling is that the LA will not have sufficient time within the current timeframe  [22nd February 2021] in which to demonstrate they have fairly considered all of the objections  points raised in this document and by those received from the wider community. 

Be clear and helpful in guiding people through the process 

The consultation documents were emailed to parents of the nursery on Monday 24th January.  Parents were informed that they should email any thoughts to a generic consultation email  address. As previously stated, the LA have made an assumption that families will all have  access to the resources which will allow them to respond to the consultation appropriately. No  adjustments or adaptations have been made to ensure that all families will be able to access  the consultation documents. More worrying is the council’s short sighted approach in failing to  share this with the other groups who may be impacted and more generally to the wider  community. Whilst it is the case that the families currently on role at the nursery are acutely  affected, we are aware of an overwhelming number of young families in the area who had  anticipated sending their younger children to the nursery when they reached appropriate age  or when the nursery had availability to take them. This document details the number of families  who have expressed an interest in attending Lavender Nursery since the nursery was sadly  forced to close its under 2 year old provision in 2018 and subsequently closed its waiting list  to all other class groups since November 2020.

Seek views at the earliest possible stage and throughout the consultation The LNPA would argue that the short turn around for the consultation feedback suggests that  the LA are merely carrying out the consultation as a matter of course. It is felt that that the LA  have made the deadline unreasonably short as this was either a part of the planned MMES  ‘take-over’ of the Lavender Nursery site that was forgotten entirely or was strategically left to  the last minute to ensure that there were as few responses as possible. Either way, we would  argue that this approach entirely contravenes the borough commitment to its own SCI. Those  impacted could also have been involved at an earlier stage, before the formal consultation  started. 

Section 9.9 of the borough’s SCI stipulates; 

‘For such consultation to be meaningful, it should be held towards the beginning of the  pre-application process, while there is still a realistic opportunity for the local community  to help shape proposals before they are submitted as a formal application. If consultation  is held just before submitting the application, the designs are likely to be more fixed and  there are fewer opportunities for community engagement to influence the proposals.’ 

The current proposal suggests that the LA intend to close Lavender Nursery with effect from  August 2021. This suggests that a planning proposal has already been submitted and  therefore no such pre-application consultation has taken place. 

Social & Economic Impact 

The LNPA believes there would be a significant social and economic impact from closing the  nursery. Closure of the Lavender Nursery will leave up to 120 families currently on roll, without  adequate access to early years childcare, which the LNPA believe would cause an  insurmountable strain on the ability of parents to work. Merton Council’s Childcare Sufficiency  in Merton Annual Report 2019, states; 

“Sufficient, high quality childcare is not only a vital component of the local economy and  can support regeneration, but ensures that families can access the right type of childcare  to meet their needs that enables them to seek work or maintain their employment. In  addition, a market that can offer high quality, accessible and affordable childcare has the  potential to contribute to the reduction of child poverty. Evidence shows that high-quality  Early Years provision has a positive and lasting effect on children’s outcomes, future  learning and life chances - regardless of the economic circumstances of their parents.  Therefore, high quality childcare supports the Local Authority in its role to improve the  wellbeing of young children and reduce inequalities between them.” 

The Department for Education’s “Early Education and Childcare Statutory Guidance for Local  authorities, states: 

“Parents are able to work because childcare places are available, accessible and  affordable and are delivered flexibly in a range of high quality settings. To secure sufficient  childcare places, local authorities are required by legislation to: secure sufficient childcare,  so far as is reasonably practicable, for working parents, or parents who are studying or  training for employment, for children aged 0-14”

Working families require full-time childcare in order for them to continue meeting the demands  of running and maintaining their household in London. The part time hours currently offered  as funded places do not provide sufficient hours for parents to work the hours full-time jobs  demand. Adequate childcare facilities have become particularly crucial during the uncertain  times of the global pandemic, which continues to cause job losses. The Merton Council  proposal fails to appreciate the importance of enabling people back into work and for working  parents to continue to be able to work their full hours. The cost of alternative nurseries in the  area is notably higher than Lavender Nursery (see Alternative Childcare Providers below),  which would cause significant financial strain on its current families and could result in parents  being unable to work, with no choice but in to provide childcare at home, forcing families in to  a situation of further financial difficulty. This increase in cost for alternative childcare is  particularly relevant for Lavender nursery given that it is in Lavender Fields ward, noted as  one of the poorest in the borough. Stripping this affordable childcare provision would be  particularly damaging to low income families. 

LNPA believes the financial viability of the nursery has been impacted by its own downsizing  in previous years. Fee paying parents keep nurseries viable. In 2018 Lavender Nursery closed  the ‘baby room’ resulting in a significant decrease in the number of fee paying families. This  meant that the natural flow of children from the “baby room” up to the “preschool room” was  interrupted, which will inevitably have resulted in a decrease in profit to the nursery. 

Many parents require their child to attend a nursery from much younger than the age of 2 and  so regrettably they have been forced to find alternative arrangements, which would then make  them hesitant to move their child back to Lavender Nursery when they reached the age of 2  years. As such, many current Lavender Nursery families are forced to send their siblings to  two different nursery settings, resulting in two nursery ‘commutes’ and missing out on the  nursery sibling discount. 

It is LNPA’s belief that the council has been undermining the financial viability of the nursery  by cutting back the intake of the nursery in previous years, in order to be able to justify it’s  closure now. By increasing and supporting the fee paying children in the nursery by reopening  the “baby room” and maintaining fee paying places in older classes (and if required increasing  the fees to prevent the nursery being loss making) the LNPA believe’s the nursery would be  revenue generating again. As it stands there is a significant waiting list with around 40 families  on the list at the time Lavender Nursery was forced to close it’s waiting as a result of the global  pandemic. We are informed that the nursery receives daily enquiries from prospective parents  looking for a range of childcare, from 6 months to 5 years. 

Lavender nursery is notable in the area for its diversity. The mix of full time paid for places  with government funded places supports the local area’s diverse demographic, enabling  children from different backgrounds to mix. This was a particular feature of the Sure Start  programme, under which the facility was built. The Sure Start programme focused on areas  of high deprivation that would benefit from the early years facility but with universally  accessible places, ensuring that the children who received funding were able to mix with fee  paying children promoting diversity and inclusivity. Closing Lavender Nursery would take this  away, sending the children from more deprived families to facilities only offering funded places  and children from other families to paid for facilities elsewhere. 

The Childcare Sufficiency in Merton Annual Report [2019 & 2020] clearly identifies that there  is already a deficit of funded early education for 2-year-olds, within the wards surrounding the  nursery.

 

Variance in availability of ‘funded  places available’ to ‘eligible children’


2019 
2020
Colliers Wood 
-13 
-14
Figges Marsh 
-47 
-45
Graveney 
-38 
-14
Lavender Fields 
18 
-12


-80 
-85


The report states that the Figges Marsh ward currently has: “significantly fewer places in the  ward than there are eligible children”. These families are forced to source alternative childcare  providers outside of the ward in which they live. 

We believe one of these places noted is Lavender Nursery and by removing this facility there  would be further strain on available places. It must also be noted Lavender would be the  second local nursery to close, following the closure of the independently run Funky Owls, St  Barnabas Hall, Gorringe Park Avenue, CR4. Although the council’s Childcare Sufficiency  Assessment report shows that the population of Merton’s under-fives has decreased in recent  years and suggests that this is expected to continue to decrease over the next five years, the  LNPA believe that this is unlikely to be the case given the council’s commitment to  regeneration in the local area, thus increasing the number of children being born. There is  anecdotal evidence of a Covid ‘baby boom’ on the horizon which would bring further need for  nursery places. 

Alternative Childcare Providers 

There are 2 key considerations for alternative childcare arrangements for the children who are  currently at Lavender and who were on the waiting list and expecting a future place. 

1. The proposed alternative arrangements for funded places for eligible 2-year-olds (part  time, term time, free provision) 

Of proposed locations Steers Mead Children’s Centre is the only one within walking  distance of Lavender (10mins walk). Acacia Children’s Centre (20mins walk) and  Abbey Children’s Centre (30mins walk) are too far for families to travel by foot given  the round trip journeys would be between 40-60 minutes from Lavender. This will  prevent these nurseries being an option for some families or require those families to  travel by car to the locations which is impractical (no parking facilities at the nurseries)  but also adds to the pollution in the borough which Merton has pledged to reduce. This  also goes against the councils Good Growth Strategy which includes the 20-minute  neighbourhood policy ("The council will seek to create 20 minute neighbourhoods  where feasible - 20-minute neighbourhoods are places where communities can access  most of their daily needs within a 20-minute (about 800 metres) return walk from  home.) 

The requirement to fill 80 funded places could not be met by the current proposal.  Acacia and Abbey offer 24 and 20 places respectively and are currently full. Steers  Mead will need to be fully refurbished in order to function as a nursery and will only  have the capacity for an additional 29 spaces.

2. Places for 2, 3 and 4-year-olds for fee paying families (full time places) 

Although there are other nurseries within 1 mile of Lavender there are many reasons  why parents have chosen to send their child/children to Lavender and not those  nurseries. Key factors within this are price and location. This is summarised below: 

Nursery
Distance  from  

Lavender (as crow flies)
Walking  

time
Round  

trip time (walking) Ward 


Avails
Fees:  

Under 3s
Fees:  

Over 3s
Fees:  

Over 3s inc 15- hour  

funding
Fees:  

Over 3s inc 30 hours  

funding
Lavender  

Nursery

 

 


Lavender  

Fields 

 


£1,174.00 £1,140.00 £935.00 


£697.00
Flourish Day Nursery
0.63  

miles 
21min 
42min
Colliers  

Wood 
Yes 
£1,625.00 

 


£1,411.25 £1,197.00
Funky Owls
0.69  

miles 
20min 
40mins
Colliers  

Wood 
Yes 
£1,776.00 

 


£1,495.00 £1,256.00
Nursery on the Green (Colliers  

Wood)
 

0.72  

miles 
21 mins 42mins


Colliers  

Wood 
Yes 

 


£1,517.00 £1,300.00 £1,001.00 £702.00


Love Lane Day Nursery
0.81  

miles 
20min 
40mins
Cricket  

Green 
Yes 


£1,517.00 £1,473.00

 


Kingswood  Daycare  

Nursery
0.81  

miles 
24mins 
48mins
Cricket  

Green 
Yes 


£1,540.00 £1,430.00

 


Jigsaw Day Nursery
0.82  

miles 
22mins 
44mins
Cricket  

Green 
No 
£1,457.00

 

 


Nursery on the Green (Mitcham)
0.82  

 

miles 
25mins 
50mins
Cricket  

Green

 

 

 

 


Haslemere  House Day Nursery
0.86  

miles 
22 mins 44mins


Cricket  

Green 
Yes 


£1,170.00 £1,126.00

 


Kiddies  

Kottage
0.87  

miles 
30 mins 60mins 


Longthornton 

 


£1,213.00 £1,083.00

 


Lucky Beans (Wandsworth)
0.58  

miles 
12 mins 24mins 

 


No 


£1,531.00 £1,336.00

 


Woodlands  (Wandsworth)
0.66  

miles 
15 mins 30mins 

 


Yes 

 


£1,627.00 £1,411.00 £1,223.00 £942.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Average price 

 


£1,497.30 £1,308.43 £1,282.56 £1,024.25


% higher than Lavender 
27.54% 
14.77% 
37.17% 
46.95%


 

 

It is clear from the above that Lavender is significantly cheaper than all but one of the  other local nurseries, which is a significant distance from the current Lavender Nursery  setting. The council’s proposal for the above nurseries to be regarded as suitable  alternatives, is unreasonable due to the added impact of the commute to the nursery  settings, as well as the incomparable fees the families will be forced to pay, in a time  where many families' budgets are stretched. This could result in many children being  forced out of suitable childcare provision.

The practicalities of journeys to nursery must also be considered, to ensure journeys  are taken on foot rather than by car (to prevent further pollution) the distance to and  from nursery is key. The data above clearly shows that many of the nurseries would  not be practical to walk to and from and this would be a significant factor in whether  parents can use these nurseries in place of Lavender. 

Nursery classes in primary schools have been given as an alternative to full time places,  however this is not a comparable option. Nursery classes within primary schools are only for  children aged 3-4 years, with no options for the children aged 2-3 years currently provided by  Lavender Nursery. Places are not available until the term after the child turns 3 (or in some  local Wandsworth schools we’ve enquired at, they are only available the September after they  turn 3). This is critical to considerations of appropriate alternatives, if a child turns 3 on the 1st  April (and onwards) they would not be able to start at a school nursery until the following  September, thus requiring a further 6 months of childcare elsewhere. Lavender Nursery is  open from 7.45-6pm providing parents with the ability to work a standard full-time working day,  while their child is at nursery. The provision within primary schools does not cover the full day  and more worryingly not all primary schools offer wrap around care to the nursery age  group. The LNPA believes that nursery classes within primary schools are not a like-for-like  viable option. 

There are a number of childminders in the area, however the services provided by  childminders vs nurseries are not comparable. This is particularly key in the pre-school age  group where social and emotional development is core to the EYFS and therefore being in a  nursery setting with a larger number of children and getting prepared for the school  environment is critical. Nursery and childminder provisions cannot be compared to nursery  settings, as the parents who chose nursery do so because they are looking for full rounded  childcare which supports the research on early years development. 

In addition to travel and cost implications of choosing Lavender Nursery, parents note that  they chose Lavender Nursery for its setting. Lavender Nursery provides a purpose built  building for EYFS with unparalleled facilities (nominated for 2006 Better Public Building Award)  including floor-to-ceiling windows offering natural light in all rooms, large separate rooms for  all age groups, a huge, secure, well equipped garden and is set back from the main road. No  other council run or private nurseries in the area offer comparable facilities, which were  specifically designed with young people in mind. The high quality care and experience of the  staff, many of whom have been with the nursery for many years, results in excellent  relationships between the children, parents and staff which fosters the high quality learning  experience across the nursery. Within the local community Lavender Nursery is consistently  recommended by parents to future parents as is demonstrated by the waiting lists for places. 

Educational Impact 

The council’s “Children & Young People Plan” agreed to "continue to provide good or  outstanding nursery provision and actively promote access to 2 year-old funding". The report  states; 

‘by removing this provision all parents in full time work who cannot use the reduced  hours of the 15/30 hours funding will have the nursery provision taken away from them  and despite the offer of relocating the funded places there will still be many parents  who are unable to use those sites due to their location and as such are also having the  option of funded places removed from them.’

The council’s ‘Childcare Sufficiency in Merton’ report 2020 notes; 

Evidence shows that high-quality Early Years provision has a positive and lasting effect  on children’s outcomes, future learning and life chances - regardless of the economic  circumstances of their parents. Therefore, high quality childcare supports the Local  Authority in its role to improve the wellbeing of young children and reduce inequalities  between them. 

Given this evidence the LNPA believes the closure of Lavender Nursery would lead to  significant risk to the development of local children. This is particularly important in the most  deprived areas of Merton. In the council published document: Merton Wards Health Profile - Lavender Fields it states only “55% of children in Lavender Fields are "school ready" by the  age of 5”. 

This is far fewer than the borough, London and national averages and so closing Lavender  nursery within this ward will only impact this further 

The LNPA highlighted that there are around 40 children on the waiting list and more who were  unable to join this waiting list when it was closed in November 2020. These children may now  find it difficult to find places at other nurseries as many in the local area are already over  subscribed and could be left without a nursery place or have to wait longer than planned before  starting nursery. These children have spent a significant portion of their young lives in isolation  during the Covid pandemic and without access to baby classes or socialisation the  developmental importance of joining a nursery is even more critical. 

Ancillary Concerns 

The LNPA have raised concerns regarding the suitability of the location of MMES at the  Lavender Nursery site. Lavender Nursery is situated on London Road, the entrance to which  is adjacent to Tamworth Recreation. Tamworth Recreation ground is a playground owned and  managed by Merton LA. It’s equipment and play space are suitable for and attract children  under the age of 10 years old. As such the playground lends itself well to its location next to  Lavender Nursery. The play space is a shared community space where families of all social  and economic backgrounds convene together in a safe and calm environment. 

The proposal for MMES to relocate to the Lavender Nursery site raises real concerns about  the uptake and usage of Tamworth Recreation Ground. The suitable footfall will be drastically  reduced in and around the recreation ground area, due to the reduction in the numbers of  young children [under 10’s] accessing the playground on a daily basis. This could well render  the playground a wasted community space, which will require greater long term upkeep and  expense by the LA. It is also possible that in its significantly reduced state, Tamworth  Recreation ground could become a space inappropriately used by those demonstrating anti 

social behaviour, as is the case for some neighbouring outdoor space such as Edenvale. The  playground and splash park can also get particularly busy during the summer and this may  not be suitable for anxious or high risk children to have to pass through to enter or leave the  facility. 

We believe that the LA’s commitment to providing safe outdoor space for all may be  compromised by the repositioning of MMES to the Lavender Nursery site.

Future-proofing the community 

The current Lavender Nursery site, was a purpose-built award winning site designed  specifically for the under 5’s. The single-story premises currently comprises 4 separate rooms,  4 bathrooms all designed with low level accessibility facilities specifically for young people.  The substantial outdoor space lends itself to allow children to fully develop the EYFS  curriculum and development. For many families who attend the nursery without their own  personal outdoor space at home, the access to large, purposeful and safe outdoor learning  space will be a lifeline for personal development. 

The LNPA feel that Merton council overlooks the very fact that the space was specifically  identified and designed and built at much expense, following the needs assessment of its’  community and local area and that the local authority is deliberately disguising the continued  level of demand and in fact the likely increase in demand for affordable nursery in the local  area, given the mass scale residential development and regeneration that is detailed in Merton  Councils local plan. LNPA understand that Merton Council’s Local Plan sets out the following; 

1.2.10 

Good quality housing could encourage young professionals into Mitcham bringing increased  spending power. More people using the town centre will have knock on social and  environmental effects, including greater support for existing local businesses, allowing them  to expand and create new jobs. 

1.2.11 

In order to accommodate the significant increase in new housing in Mitcham and the  surrounding neighbourhood, in particular from large key development sites, we will also ensure  that community services such as education and health meet the needs of existing and new  residents. 

The LNPA understands that the current Eastfields Regeneration programme proposes 800  new homes, many of which will be targeted towards the council’s ‘local plan’ of encouraging  young professionals to the area. As such we anticipate an increase in the demand for nursery  places, as young professionals and couples start families. Whilst the LNPA recognise that  there may be a small increase in demand for medical education services, the ratio of demand  for this type of service is heavily outweighed by the likely demand for ‘mainstream’ affordable,  safe and purposeful childcare, which supports the council's current Local Plan, it’s economical  objectives of increased income to the area and its environmental agenda ‘Good Growth  Strategy’ of creating a minute-community - where communities can access most of their daily  needs within a 20-minute (about 800 metres) return walk from home). 

The council's current proposal suggests one of the alternative sites for the deposition of  Lavender children, will be Acacia Nursery. However given its proximity to the Eastfield  Regeneration site, the likely increase in demand for places on the waiting list as a result, will  mean fewer places available for those families dispersed from Lavender Nursery. It is also  possible that with such demand for Acacia Nursery, the LA could chose to impose a  ‘catchment’ area to the nursery, which would force those previously attending Lavender  Nursery even further down a waiting list, rendering them without any alternative childcare  option, other than the cripplingly expensive independent options. It is very clear from the fee  structure’s evidence in this document, that independent nurseries do not currently offer a like for-like alternative to local authority run nurseries. It is LNPA feeling that the proposal entirely  fails to take into account the additional and significant financial burden these types of settings  would place on young families. Naturally, this would only lead to further marginalising of  families on the income spectrum, with only those from more wealthy income households able  to continue to access childcare.

The council’s proposal papers suggest that approximately 120 families will be affected by the  nursery closures proposal. The short-sighted nature of this implies a deliberate attempt to  undervalue the importance and demand for Lavender Nursery. The LNPA understands that,  regrettably, Lavender Nursery was forced to close their formal waiting list for new children in  November 2020 as a result of the global pandemic, at which time the nursery had 40 families  on the formal waiting list, with interest across all age groups. We are aware that since closing  its formal waiting list, the nursery continue to be contacted via telephone and/or on a daily  basis by new families in need of quality childcare and so we anticipate that should the waiting  list have remained open, this figure of 40 families would see a 100% increase, with  approximately 80-100 waiting families. The council's proposal fails to take into account the  continued demand for spaces at Lavender Nursery, which we would suggest would impact a  higher proportion of local families, than is currently in demand for MMES places. In addition,  since the closure of the “baby room” in 2018 there are a significant number of families who  would seek to put their child into nursery care from a younger age who have now had to find  care elsewhere, there could be a significant increase in attendance if this room were to be  reopened. 

The council should now seriously consider its commitment to its own Local Plan of  encouraging young professionals to the area, ensuring that it thoroughly ‘future-proofs’ its  education provision. The LPNA believes it would be short-sighted and reactionary of the  council to close a highly effective, safe, purposeful, happy and affordable EYFS childcare  setting, which will subsequently leave insufficient, inadequate provisions for those that the  area intends to attract over the next few years. It should be recognised that young families will  also take into account factors such as access to childcare provisions, transportation, ease of  commute around childcare, when choosing to move to a new area. The lack of quality nursery  will undoubtedly render Mitcham a less desirable area than its counterparts. As such, Mitcham  will continue to see a decrease in its external income and local spend and will continue to  demand more financially to support its maintenance and regeneration proposal, and this will  be a financial and time consuming burden to Merton Council . 

A recent study carried out by the Early Years Alliance in collaboration with Ceeda, suggests  that 64 percent of nurseries and 56 percent of childminders consider their services to be at  immediate risk of closure or to be facing potential closure in the next 12 months. 70 percent  of nurseries in disadvantaged areas of London class themselves as ‘struggling’ compared with  59 per cent in more affluent areas. In a press release from the London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s  office, Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance chief executive, said; 

"It is deeply concerning to see that, despite the crucial role that nurseries, pre-schools and  childminders in London have played supporting local children and families throughout the  pandemic, an ongoing lack of adequate government support - combined with years of  underfunding - means the majority will struggle to survive the next 12 months. What's more,  given that we know early education is crucial to ensuring that all children are given the best  possible start in life, it is particularly worrying that providers in more disadvantaged areas are  at a significantly higher risk of experiencing financial difficulties than those in more affluent  areas”. 

In light of the above considerations, the LNPA would strongly argue that the proposed closure  of Lavender Nursery presents ‘false economy’ in the long term and does not seek to future proof itself economically, socially or environmentally.

Impact on Staff 

The LNPA understands that the impact on the staff at Lavender Nursery is a legal matter and  that there is a full process of separate consultation required, which will impact on at least a  third of the staff being forced into involuntary redundancy. The LNPA would like to note  however, that in a time of national lockdown, there is an inevitable challenge for finding re 

employment and as such any consultation of redundancy should take reasonable steps to  support its staff in offering an acceptable level of time for staff to be consulted on the proposal.  It is the LNPA’s feeling the local authority should consider allowing additional time for the  consultation period, in order to reasonably support the re-employment of its workforce in any  way possible. The LA will be aware that failure to follow the due consultation process may  result in a legal challenge, through an Employment Tribunal. 

It is entirely regrettable that the local council has chosen a time of such employment  uncertainty to force a third of the Lavender Nursery workforce into a situation of  unemployment. The council and those reading this report, of which many will be parents  themselves, will know that the single most important resource to the success of any education  setting its staff. The staff at Lavender Nursery are among the highest calibre of educators and  childcare providers that any parent could ask for, any OFSTED inspector could assess and  any child would wish to be cared for by. Many of the staff have been with the nursery since it  opened in 2005 and many families have had all their children attend, some of whom are now  at secondary school age and still hold such close regard for the staff at Lavender Nursery. 

The LNPA have been astounded by the numbers of ex-families in the community who have  reached out to support the objection to the consultation and this is a testament to the long  term impact that the staff at Lavender Nursery have had on their children and families. The  community support to oppose the closure of Lavender Nursery is evident in the numbers of  the local community, who have been in contact with the LNPA and with the consultation team  directly. It is entirely remiss of Merton Council to regard the staff at Lavender Nursery as  ‘dispensable’. 

Since the pandemic and national lockdown, the team at Lavender Nursery have so gracefully  supported the local families, by ensuring the children are able to continue to attend the nursery  setting that they love so much. The team have continued to put themselves on the front line, they have maintained consistency and stability when it is certain many families would have  been left turned upside down in their personal lives. The children of LNPA truly love their  nursery. It is no exaggeration to say that the staff provide a life-line for families to continue,  not just in a time of global pandemic, but have done since the Lavender Nursery opened its  doors to the community in 2005. 

Conclusion 

The LNPA believes the council’s proposal is poorly argued, lacks evidence, and is short sighted in its attitude to the local community (both currently and in attracting new families to  the area). There is no justification that the expansion of the MMES provision should also  require the closure of Lavender Nursery. The impact of this closure on the families and children  of Lavender Nursery (both current and future) has been ill considered and undervalued. The  alternative childcare options being proposed by Merton Council are not comparable to that  offered by Lavender. Families will be forced into further financial difficulty as a result of high  fees charged by independent nurseries and childminders. The quality of EYFS childcare  provision and the suitability of the settings offered is not comparable to that offered by 

Lavender Nursery and therefore the local authority is not fulfilling the consultations  requirements to support families in sourcing alternative suitable childcare provision. The  council have failed to provide a detailed viability report on the alternative options for the  relocation of the MMES site, which calls into question the integrity of this consultation. 

We therefore urgently require and expect that the timescale is extended for more detailed  consultation and that Councillors are involved in this. A number of questions have been raised  in this document, and we await a detailed response to them, including addressing the needs  of those who use the nursery but for whom English is not their first language, who are currently  confused and anxious (in a time where mental health problems are increasing). 

Source List 

Merton Council, Local Plan 

https://www.merton.gov.uk/planning-and-buildings/planning/local-plan/newlocalplan 

Childcare Sufficiency in Merton [2020] 

https://www.merton.gov.uk/Documents/Childcare%20Sufficiency%20Report%202020%20FI NAL.pdf 

Statement of Community Involvement [June 2020] 

https://www.merton.gov.uk/assets/Documents/Statement%20of%20Community%20Involvem ent%202020.pdf 

Children & Young People Plan [2019-23] 

https://democracy.merton.gov.uk/documents/s28508/Children%20and%20Young%20People s%20Plan%202019-23%20Final.pdf 

JSNA & Health of the Borough Merton Health Profile 

Merton Data – JSNA and health of the borough 

https://www.merton.gov.uk/healthy-living/publichealth/jsna/health 

profiles#:~:text=An%20overview%20of%20health%20and,as%20main%20causes%20of%20 mortality. 

Good Growth Strategy 

https://www.merton.gov.uk/assets/Documents/Stage2_2_GoodGrowthStrategy_FINAL.pdf 

https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/two-thirds-of-londons-nurseries-risk closure 

[12th February 2021] 

The Business Support Needs of London Early Years Sector and How They can Be Met, Early  Years Alliance and Ceeda [November 2020] 

https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/the_business_support_needs_of_londons_early _years_sector_and_how_they_can_be_met.pdf

 

0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,500!
At 1,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!