Update: New College Lanarkshire is to pause the closure of its nurseries in Cumbernauld and Coatbridge until December 31

STAFF and students have expressed their outrage after New College Lanarkshire (NCL) decided to close its campus nurseries in Coatbridge and Cumbernauld.

The college announced the closures on Tuesday, citing “significant financial challenges” following their most recent funding settlement, which has resulted in a real terms cut of around £4.3 million for the next financial year and rising operating costs for the nurseries.

“The board was left with no realistic option other than closure from the end of the current nursery term,” a spokesperson for the college said. 

It also comes as a pledge to give £26m to the nation’s colleges was reversed by the Scottish Government earlier in May.

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Jamie Hepburn, the MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, said the closures came as “a big surprise”.

The Minister for Independence added on Facebook: “I’ve now made contact with the principal of the college to ask that they reconsider this decision and I‘ve asked for a meeting to raise my concerns with this shock announcement.”

Students and staff have also expressed their shock and anger at the decision, saying it was done with “no consultation” and that it would impact the "poorest students". 

On Thursday 25, the college announced they would postpone the closure until December.

A spokesperson for the college said: “We promised we would listen, engage and be attentive to suggestions, views and options put forward by staff, parents, unions and other stakeholders in our community and have done so. We fully recognise the value and importance of the different perspectives others can provide and recognise these insights can inform and advance our thinking.

“We are conscious of the very significant impact this situation has caused and the resulting anxiety for staff, families and the other networks affected. We will continue to listen and engage closely with all of them over the coming weeks and months.”

Denise Penn has worked at the Cumbernauld nursery for 25 years, and is now the manager. She was informed of the decision on Tuesday 23, and had to inform her staff later that day.

She said: “We had absolutely no idea that any of this was going to happen. We were totally shocked and upset.

“It’s just not how it should have been done. I think there should have been some notice. There was absolutely no consultation with staff. We had absolutely no idea that this was going to happen.

“A lot of people are worried about their financial situation, some of our staff actually have children in the nursery as well."

“Sorry, I’m gonna cry,” Tracy Andrews, who also works at the Cumbernauld nursery, told The National.

“We have children who came from other nurseries where there were obviously issues and we've just got them settled. To think that these children are gonna go elsewhere and have to go over the process of settling again is just absolutely heart-breaking.

“How am I going to meet my bills? How am I going to pay for my car? We’re struggling now, and to have this now – it’s horrendous.”

All staff in the nurseries will be offered the options of redeployment within the wider college community or to apply for voluntary severance, according to the college.

“This is not voluntary,” says Penn. “We have not chosen for our jobs to not exist. The redeployment that they're offering, obviously they’re closing the nurseries run by the college. So there wouldn't be any job to match our qualifications or skillset."

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The college claimed the decision came after a six-month, wide-ranging review of the nurseries involving staff, trade unions and external advisers.

It also said they were putting in place support plans for children and guardians, and for staff, with a designated person being available over the coming weeks to discuss the plans and their impact on individuals in detail.

These support plans will include advice and guidance on what assistance is available and what additional support can be offered.

But it’s not only staff who will be impacted by the decision.

Sher Khalid-Ali is a student at NCL and has a two-year-old child who uses the nursery. She was planning to study sociology and philosophy at the University of Stirling next year but will now have to defer for a year due to the closures.

She said: “The funding cuts to colleges at the moment are having a severe and direct impact on working-class students like myself, and even more so on those of us with caring responsibilities.

“To have removed funding to part-time courses and then follow this up a few years later with the removal of childcare services reads as a direct attack on working-class females who are trying to better their lives.

“The decisions being taken by the college are beyond reason and have clearly been taken with an utter disregard for both their own staff and the students who rely on campus nurseries to be able to study.

“We would urge them to reverse their decision and make funding cuts in areas which do not negatively impact the poorest students."

A spokesperson for the college said: “Both centres have offered a superb service for children and parents for many years and the board is extremely grateful for the invaluable contributions staff have made towards the education and care of young people in our region.

“However, the new financial reality resulting from the college’s real-term funding allocation cut has made it impossible to continue to run the nurseries when our primary responsibility must be to achieve positive outcomes for our students.”

Khalid-Ali also took aim at the Scottish Government, saying they should recommit to the £26m promised to colleges.

She said: “If you really care about ending poverty, stop making it so utterly impossible to get out of it. Working-class adults need education to allow social mobility and, without it, we will remain in poverty.

“Fund further education or continue to pay the economic and societal consequences.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Operational decisions on resourcing and staffing matters are for individual colleges. Ministers have no direct role in these decisions.

“Central to our Fair Work approach is the expectation that employers, workers and trades unions should work together to reach the right decisions and ensure workers are treated fairly.

“We would urge families impacted by any proposed changes to engage with their local authority for support around making alternative childcare arrangements.”