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Shifnal nursery fighting for survival after losing lease at school

By Nick Humphreys | Shifnal | Education | Published:

A Shifnal nursery is losing its home of 11 years, leaving its future hanging in the balance and 17 jobs at risk.

Owners Adele Woodward and Claire Ferguson with fellow staff and children

Hopscotch Nursery, which looks after more than 100 children, has been an important community asset for 15 years, and has been based at Shifnal Primary School for more than a decade. But the school has decided to not renew its lease in order to use the space to accommodate for more of its own pupils.

The lease runs out in July next year and, unless they are able to find somewhere else, the nursery will close, leaving only one pre-school in the area offering full-time childcare.

Hopscotch owners Claire Ferguson and Adele Woodward believe the effect will be devastating on the community, given that another 1,500-2,500 homes could potentially be built in Shifnal and 3,000 in Tong, meaning even more families could be struggling for childcare provision.

They said “We have been trying to reach a solution with Adam Farrington, the head of Shifnal Primary School, with the close involvement of Shropshire Council. The council has stated that the school should have enough space for pupils until the end of 2026. The council has also offered to look at other options if the school need more classroom space in the future so that Hopscotch can stay on site. The school has rejected this offer.

“We are disappointed that Mr Farrington and the school governors have refused to reverse their decision despite the work of the Shropshire Council. We are grateful to the council for their efforts and we intend to fight the decision with the help of our community so that we can continue to provide our town with much-needed quality childcare services.”

Incensed

One parent, Kirsty Lewis, said: “Nursery places are limited in Shifnal and as far as I can see, demand is increasing. I am a full time working mum and I wish to continue working so I can afford a decent quality of life living in a town that I love. I am incensed that a decision like this can be taken without any consultation. These families will be in the awful situation of having to choose between working and staying at home due to difficulties with finding childcare."

Adam Farrington, head of the school, said: "The governors have made this decision, after consultation with the local authority, because of the significant rise in pupil numbers over the past five years which has resulted in the school experiencing an increase of over 100 pupils and having to provide an additional five classes to accommodate these children. The school has doubled in size since Hopscotch came on to the school site in 2008.

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"With the recent expansion of the school’s accommodation, the local authority has recognised that the school site has reached saturation point, and that there is no further scope for the building of extra classrooms.

"In the past 12 months, the school has spent more money maintaining the building than we receive in rent. This is unsustainable, especially as the school is already running a deficit budget for a second consecutive year because of the delay in receiving funding for pupils who are inward mobility."

Neville Ward, Shropshire Council’s service manager for early years and childcare, said: “Shropshire Council is working closely with the owners of Hopscotch to try and find them alternative accommodation, so that the business can continue to operate after July 2020.”

Parents have organised a meeting on Friday, November 22 at the Trinity Methodist Church, Victoria Road. Hopscotch invite all interested parties to attend.

Nick Humphreys

By Nick Humphreys
Senior Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star focusing on Bridgnorth.

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