Answers demanded after Glasgow Council withdraws nursery provision

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  By Martin Kelly

A Glasgow councillor has demanded answers after the Labour controlled local authority suddenly and without warning, withdrew nursery provision to several local families.

Councillor Mhairi Hunter has spoken of her concern after learning how Glasgow Council had phoned parents telling them not to bring their children to a nursery the youngsters had been attending for months.

Shocked parents received a telephone call on Tuesday, hours after their children had returned home from Craigton Primary Nursery, informing them that their children would no longer be allowed to attend the nursery due to staff shortages.

The withdrawal of the nursery provision followed the inability of the council to find a replacement for a member of staff who was on maternity leave.  Eighteen children were affected in total.

Within hours of an article appearing in Newsnet Scotand highlighting the situation, Glasgow City Council got in touch with one of the parents concerned and explained they had reversed the decision, informing her that her daughter could return to the nursery.  The Labour run local authority then requested that Newsnet Scotland remove the article.

A council spokesperson told Newsnet Scotland that staff shortages meant that parents had to be asked to keep their children at home.  The spokesperson said use of the council’s banding criteria had ensured that the most vulnerable children had not been affected.

She said: “Unfortunately due to staff shortages we had to reduce the number of children who could attend for one morning session.  We apologised to parents for the inconvenience.  A solution was found as quickly as possible and the nursery fully staffed for the afternoon session.”

She added that parents had been contacted to let them know.

However Newsnet Scotland has subsequently learned that despite being initially led to believe her daughter’s nursery place had been secured “for the foreseeable future”, one parent was later informed that the place was guaranteed only until the end of the week.

The mother told us: “It’s just ludicrous! The head teacher has now informed me that although my daughter can go back to nursery tomorrow, they have no guarantees after the end of this week.  The teacher they have deployed to Craigton Primary Nursery is only till Friday and they hope this will give them some breathing space to sort something long term.”

Commenting on the situation, SNP councillor Mhairi Hunter said: “This is very concerning.  The Council has a duty to secure a pre-school place for every eligible child whose parents wish it.  Proper workforce planning should ensure that maternity cover is in place when required.

“We will be demanding answers from the Education Department and seeking assurances that no children in Glasgow are being denied the early learning opportunities that they are entitled to.”

Prior to the 2012 local council elections, Glasgow Labour pledged a “massive extension” in childcare provision in the city.

Labour Leader of Glasgow City Council, Gordon Matheson, said:

“Glasgow was the first council in Scotland to offer 15 hours of free childcare to three year olds, but I want our city to stay ahead of the game. Childcare is vital in helping parents, especially women, get back into the job market.

“I am delighted to unveil this pledge, and it will see almost every child born in Glasgow start their free childcare early.  This is a massive boost for them, for their parents and for our city.  Childcare is an issue of social justice for families and is at the heart of Labour’s plans.”

Scottish Labour Leader, Johann Lamont, welcomed the pledge and said: “Too often there is a gap between the rhetoric of what politicians say and the reality facing families.  By contrast this is a real, concrete scheme that will support thousands of children in Glasgow, and their families.  Even in good economic times, access to childcare is one of the biggest barriers stopping women coming back to the workplace.  When times are tough, childcare is even more important.”