Funding cuts lead to closure of school's early years centre

Reporter:

Emily Davies

The closure of an early years centre at Shropshire’s largest primary school is “bitterly disappointing”, according to Oswestry’s mayor.

It was announced on Friday the Start facility based at Woodside Primary School will close later this year after losing £60,000 annually, forcing 40 families to find alternative places for their children – and nine staff without jobs.

Councillor Vince Hunt, who is a governor at the school and was part of the decision-making process, said there was no alternative, but stressed other early-years places are available in Oswestry.

He told the Advertizer: “I am bitterly disappointed we are having to take this course of action.

“As governors we have made sure everything that could be done has been looked at, but with £60,000 being lost and the centre being topped up by school clubs, it is not sustainable.”

The loss of funding from Shropshire Council in 2012 had left the centre running at a deficit of more than £60,000 every year.

To make it pay, fees would have had to increase by more than 40 per cent, taking a baby’s full-day fee from £16 to £55, with toddlers from £17 up to £54 per day.

Cllr Hunt echoed comments by Rob McDevitt, headteacher of Woodside School, when he made the announcement saying there was “no choice” but to close the doors to the Start facility to children under two from the end of September, and children under three from the end of December.

However, he stressed he is eager to consider employment of the three full-time and six part-time staff within the wider school.

Mr McDevitt added: “Woodside Primary School and the education of our pupils has to remain our core priority, and with class numbers increasing year on year, and with no other funds likely to be made available, we have no choice but to divert the revenues we generate from breakfast, after-school and holiday clubs into the school itself.

“This will allow us to add the classroom space and teachers for two new Key Stage Two classes, and will ensure every pupil here receives the truly exceptional standard of education they deserve.

“Start at Woodside has run at a loss for several years and without the school making up the £60,000 shortfall, we sadly have no choice but to close the doors.

“We are, of course, supporting our families and our team fully at this time and in the weeks and months ahead.”

The closure will not impact the nursery, which is open to four-year-olds, while the breakfast, after-school and holiday clubs will remain open.

See full story in the Advertizer

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