Letter to Families and Carers

Below is the letter  sent all families at Cherry Tree Nursery and the Cherry Tree Action Group from the Board of Trustees. It can also be viewed as a pdf by using the link at the bottom of the page,

July 2019

Dear parents and carers

The Board of Trustees met on 28 June to consider the detailed representations of the Cherry Tree Action Group (CTAG) in response to the planned closure of child care at the centre. We wanted to respond to CTAG, but felt it was important that all families understood our reasoning.

It was a matter of great regret for the Trustees that wehad to make the decision to cease child care provision at Cherry Tree. The Board, which is made up predominantly of local people, understand the genuinely held concerns about the loss of this excellent service. Many of the Trustees are parents, and have expertise in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, supporting disadvantaged learners, Human Resources, educational training and development and finance. They are people who joined our Trust because they believe in the ethos which guides it and are committed to doing the best for local children and families. Sometimes this involves making difficult decisions. Families will already know the challenges that public services are facing due to the many years of austerity funding that they have faced.

The Trust wrote to families as soon as it became clear that the provision at Cherry Tree was no longer financially viable. Once the decision was made the Trustees wanted to act quickly so that closure occurred at the key educational transition point in September. This would also allow time for families to make alternative arrangements and to carry out the necessary procedures with staff.

Following the letter, the headteacher of Rosendale Primary School and the Children Centres Manager met with families on several occasions. We have responded to requests for information. We have sought to be open about the financial position of the Trust in relation to child care provision. It was suggested that we could have increased the fees. These constitute a small part of the income for the child care. The bulk of the income is from the government 30 hours free child care scheme;the level of which is fixed.

Expanding the provision or finding another provider were not considered viable propositions given the liabilities for pension that any alternative provider would have to accept. Expanding the provision would also incur additional staff costs. The long term issues of the building would also remain the same. Whilst the building is held on a peppercorn rent the Trust would have remained responsible for both day to day maintenance as well as the necessary capital works.

The Trust was confident that with the expanded provision at Rosendale and the number of other good or outstanding private providers there would be sufficient capacity in the local area. There has been no reduction in the specialist SEND places.  Of the 98 children who were attending the nursery in April we have worked with over 80% to help find alternative provision. All children with special educational needs have been found an alternative place.

We want to express our enormous gratitude to the support of all families and carers of children at Cherry Tree and look forward to working with many of you again in September at Rosendale. The Trustees also want to thank all the staff who have worked at Cherry Tree both those who will be working at Rosendale, those who have found employment elsewhere and those who are retiring. To the latter we wish a long and happy retirement.

Yours faithfully

Dr Michael Brady

Chair of Trustees

Statement on the Article in The South London Press – 19 July 2019

It was a matter of great regret for the Trustees that it had to make the decision to cease child care provision at Cherry Tree. It was clear to them that the provision was not financially viable. The Trustees have carefully considered the submissions made by the Cherry Tree Action Group and understand their genuinely held concerns about the loss of this excellent service.

Both the council and Trust have had to face some very difficult decisions given the long period of austerity. The need for Lambeth to rationalise Childrens Services provision meant that they would no longer share the space at Cherry Tree, meaning the loss of their financial contribution to running the building.

The Trust recognises that the decision will have disappointed families, but we have striven to provide support with alternative placements either at the Rosendale site or by liaising with other providers. The total number of SEN places has been maintained. We have also managed to re-deploy most of the staff from Cherry Tree to Rosendale. Some have been pleased to take the opportunity to retire.

Cherry Tree will close in August as planned.

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