Supporters rally to save One World Nursery at The University of Brighton
A rally has been held by staff, parents and supporters protesting against the closure of the only on-site nursery at The University of Brighton.
The picnic in Manor House Lawns was a last ditch attempt to persuade the University’s executive board to reverse its decision to shut One World Nursery, which has been running for almost 40 years.
The nursery closed in January due to the pandemic but had been expected to reopen in mid-April.
Instead, staff were called to an emergency meeting and told the nursery would be remain closed permanently due to financial pressures.
Sarah Ottewell, joint deputy manager, who has worked at the nursery for 19 years, said staff were ‘really shocked’ by the decision.
The University had closed its other nursery site, Phoenix Nursery, the previous year but had committed to keeping One World Nursery open, according to Sarah.
She said: “It absolutely breaks my heart.
“We’ve worked so hard for a long, long time to really build up our practice, build up this fabulous reputation.”
The nursery had been praised for its work around equality and inclusion, taking part in national and local projects, and recently became an accredited Setting of Sanctuary,
Sarah said: “It’s a very special place, a very unique place.
“I feel very, very proud of the equalities work that we do.”
“We do think what we offered was above and beyond what could be offered elsewhere.
“We had a staff team who were highly experienced, highly qualified, highly regarded across the city.
“We were doing something different and it’s a shame the university can’t recognise that and celebrate that.”
The nursery provided a service for the children of staff, students and the local community in Moulsecoomb, though in recent years it was mostly used by the community.
Sarah said it was ‘hugely positive’ to have such a strong relationship with the community, which is ‘very deprived’, and said it was one of the only departments of the university to have face-to-face daily contact with residents.
“We were part of building that bridge,” she said. “A lot of people in the community feel overshadowed by the university and sometimes they question what the university is doing to support them.
“We were a step in the right direction of doing that.”
Parents had been left ‘really upset and quite angry’ at the decision to close the nursery, she said.
“They all thought we were coming back in the middle of April,” she said.
“Some of them had put off going to other nurseries, and suddenly that rug got pulled out from underneath them, which for some families has been really difficult.”
A petition against the closure has been signed by almost 1,700 people – and Sarah said the support had been ‘amazing’.
A University of Brighton spokesman said: “The University has made the difficult decision to close One World Nursery.
“Financial pressures compounded by the pandemic mean that the University has to make challenging decisions about where we focus resources to preserve and enhance those core services that benefit most students and colleagues.
“In the case of One World, the actual number of staff and student users at the nursery has been low for several years.
“This means that our students’ fees are heavily subsidising nursery provision for those that are neither studying or working at the University.
“When considering this decision the University identified a significant number of alternative high quality nurseries in the locality, and have provided this information to those with children at the nursery.”