VALE OF GLAMORGAN: Hundreds petition against plans to merge Penarth nursery with primary school
Hundreds of petitioners are rallying against plans to merge a nursery in Penarth with a nearby primary school.
Campaigners are concerned the plan to merge Bute Cottage Nursery with Evenlode Primary School would mean the nursery losing its identity, and eventually its outdoor areas.
Vale of Glamorgan council is consulting the public on its plans to merge the nursery. A spokesman denied the nursery would be relocated and said it would keep its current site.
The plans would also see Cogan Nursery merged with Cogan Primary School.
A petition to “save Bute Cottage Nursery” has already received more than 750 signatures and parents are calling for support in their campaign.
Laura Windeatt, who launched the petition, said: “This proposal is the start of a slippery slope, starting with Bute Cottage losing its name and identity and ending with its closure and the loss of an environment we should all be determined to preserve.
“The loss of Bute Cottage would be significant to the Vale’s community and felt deeply by the generations of ‘Buties’ across the years, not to mention the future generations who would miss out on such an enriching and inspiring start to their education.
“On paper, a single site may at first glance seem practical, especially at such a good, reputable school as Evenlode, but those who know Bute Cottage know that losing it would be a travesty. Bute Cottage is a gem in the heart of the Vale of Glamorgan — one that we should vehemently protect.”
The plans would change the lowest age of pupils at Evenlode from four years old to three, and would add 96 part-time nursery places to the primary school. Bute Cottage would be discontinued, and staff and pupils would transfer to the primary school by September next year.
The campaigners believe a future phase of the reorganisation would see the nursery on Bute Lane closing and relocating to the primary school on Evenlode Avenue. A council spokesman denied this and said there were no plans to relocate the nursery.
But according to a recent cabinet report, the council would in future “prioritise relocating nursery provisions at Evenlode Primary School onto a single site”, although this would first be subject to a separate consultation and a feasibility study.
Another reason for the merger, according to the cabinet report, is to save costs. Both Cogan and Bute Cottage budget much higher than the average funding per pupil in primary schools in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The cabinet report said: “Funding per pupil is generally higher in stand-alone nursery schools due to the costs of the headteacher and other fixed costs absorbed over a low number of pupils. Larger schools are generally able to secure better value for money, through economies of scale.”
Stephanie Gillies, Bute Cottage parent and primary school teacher, said: “Bute Cottage is renowned across education settings in south Wales for its outdoor provision, and teachers from other schools are often advised to visit for inspiration. The children need Bute Cottage now more than ever.
“What they have achieved over many years simply cannot be replicated and must be saved to ensure that future generations can experience these pivotal learning opportunities, giving them the best possible start to their education. We’re appealing to anyone who thinks Bute Cottage is worth saving to sign our petition now so we can help make our voice heard.”
The Vale council said the changes would mean smoother transitions for pupils moving from nursery to primary school, and streamlining communication between staff and parents.
A Vale of Glamorgan council spokesperson said: “The proposals involve keeping Bute Cottage Nursery on its current site. There are no plans to relocate the school.
“Over the last 10 years the council has looked to adopt a primary school model that caters for children from age three to 11. This has involved merging other schools elsewhere in the Vale and leaves Bute Cottage and Cogan as the county’s only two stand-alone nursery schools.
“Organising primary school provision in this way offers a smoother transition from nursery to primary education for pupils. It also streamlines communication between parents, carers and staff by creating a single point of contact throughout all phases of primary education.
“It allows for a single strategy, set of policies and ethos across all year groups as well as offering the opportunity to make efficiency savings that can be invested back into schools.”
The consultation runs until November 5 and can be found on the council website.
Words: Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporter
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