College sounds death knell for Dunbeg nursery

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Little Learners Nursery, Dunbeg, will close its doors on Friday June 26, leaving current staff without a job and 32 children looking for a nursery place.

The announcement follows a three-week consultation with a dozen staff during which operators Argyll College UHI says it has ‘explored every option’.

Concerns are now growing that the closure will make it even more difficult for mothers to return to work after having children.

Childminder Katy Pollock was one of several parties interested in taking on the running of Little Learners, but she said all discussions came to an end without a positive solution. She told us: ‘Spaces for under threes are very limited in the Oban area.

‘There are only 11 childminders offering spaces but we are restricted to caring for three children under school age and only one of these can be aged under one year old, at any time.

‘Nursery spaces are also restricted by child:adult ratios. Children are placed in settings for the long term, so I won’t have any availability until August 2021 and I already have a waiting list for then.

‘The closure of Little Learners is a huge blow to many families in the area and with all the new houses being built, childcare spaces are seriously lacking.’

Katy first looked at Little Learners in September, along with a colleague, and had hoped they would be able to take it over and continue to run it as the busy nursery it was.

‘Our offer in December was turned down with no negotiation as we weren’t close to what they were wanting for it, but as a financially failing business we felt it was not worth what they wanted,’ she added.

‘We had spent a lot of time doing business plans, meeting with a lawyer and provisionally sorting finances. Due to time restraints with the Care Inspectorate we knew it was going to take a minimum of six months to change the registration and Little Learners management had made it clear they couldn’t keep it running at a loss for that length of time.’

After announcing the closure last week, College Principal, Martin Jones said: ‘We will be doing all we can to support staff affected to find alternative employment or help them develop their career prospects by moving into education or training.’