Threat of nursery closure could leave little learners out in the cold

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Concern is growing over the lack of affordable nursery places in the area following the news that Little Learners in Dunstaffnage is under threat of closure.

Nine core staff at are being formally consulted on the future of the business, which has been operated by Argyll College UHI for the past 15 years.

The college cited operational costs alongside logistical and managerial challenges among the reasons for the move and stated that attempts to find an alternative private operator have failed.

Parents of children who use the facility are upset and angry, however, arguing that two individuals interested in taking over the lease were ‘turned down flat’ and that the college ‘just don’t seem interested’ in keeping it open.

‘There are 32 places at Little Learners which will mean 32 children looking for nursery spaces when they are already thin on the ground,’ said a concerned parent.

‘There is a real lack of nursery places and with more housing being built in Dunbeg and various other places, and free childcare places increasing to 30 hours per week this year, it stands to reason we need more nursery places, not fewer.

‘We feel that Argyll College is taking a negative approach and is not prepared to listen when alternative offers are being made.’

The college is currently consulting with staff on the future of the business and last Thursday a well-attended open meeting, involving concerned parents and local councillors, was held.

College principal Martin Jones said: ‘The college is committed to pursuing every avenue and is also committed to engaging with parents as much as possible.

‘We have had a good frank exchange of views and this remains an important priority for me.’

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Keiron Green, policy lead for education, said:’We will be working with Argyll College over the coming weeks to try to find a way to ensure there is as little disruption to childcare as possible while solutions are explored for Little Learners nursery.

‘The council would be very supportive of any group that wanted to take it on and would do everything we could to assist with care inspectorate registration as well as any training requirements that may be needed.

‘It has not been confirmed that this facility will be closing. Should that be the case, however, we will still be in a position to deliver our commitment to 1,140 hours of childcare per year for all eligible two-year-olds as well as three- and four-year-olds in the Oban area.

‘The council is currently investing in new nursery provision at Willow View which will be a significant boost to capacity in the Oban area, while our partner providers are also investing in capacity to meet the need for 1,140 hours of childcare.

‘The situation at Little Learners will be under review within the coming weeks.’

Little Learners Nursery originally opened in 2006 and is registered for up to 32 children.