£20k shortfall behind closure of Bedford nursery classes meeting told

Castle Newnham School will stop offering nursery classes in July 2024
Castle Newnham School. PIC: Google MapsCastle Newnham School. PIC: Google Maps
Castle Newnham School. PIC: Google Maps

The loss of nursery classes at a Bedford school is due to a shortfall of £20,000, a meeting heard.

During yesterday’s (July 10) Bedford Schools’ Forum, Deirdre Murphy (National Education Union representative) said: “Castle Newnham nursery classes are about to close in 2024.

“Why are we in the business of closing early years and nursery classes?” she asked.

Chris Morris, acting chief education officer at Bedford Borough Council, replied that this was a school decision.

“I think it is a matter for the borough,” Ms Murphy said. “Because Castle Newnham is a borough school.”

“Two nursery classes are closing, and early years, and I’m sure everyone would agree with me, is a very vital part of education.

“I think it’s really imperative that we look at how we can avoid closing because my understanding is that we are talking about a shortfall of £20,000 in the school’s finances which triggered the closure,” she said.

Mr Morris said: “We need to be really careful though, Deirdre, in a public meeting like this discussing the matters of a single school and whether they’re deficit or not deficit.

“I don’t think we should be naming specific providers in a public meeting and naming finances or holes in their finances,” he said.

Ms Murphy replied: “I think it is actually public knowledge, but I take your point, I respect that.

“But I think we do need to look at why there is a closure of nursery places when early years is such a vital part of the whole of education.”

Mr Morris said: “What is in the public domain in terms of Facebook comments or others is different to actually what might be behind the decisions or the rationale behind any decision that’s made.”

In a statement, Castle Newnham School said: “Schools across the country are currently facing serious funding issues.

“The funding we receive for nursery children is no longer sufficient to pay for the high-quality provision which our community expects of us and which we have been able to provide until now albeit with substantial subsidy from the main school budget.

“Therefore, the Governors and the school have recently reached the very difficult decision that the final intake to the school Nursery will be in September 2023.

“The nursery will close in July 2024.

“Our existing nursery staff will continue to be employed in other areas of our early years and primary provision.

“We continue our commitment to excellence in early-years education in our community.”

Speaking after the meeting, a council spokesman added: “For clarification on the phrase used by Ms Murphy “it’s a Borough school” the council would like to clarify that Castle Newnham Primary is a Foundation school. As such, the school is run by their governing body, not the council; the governing body employs the staff, sets its own admissions criteria, and probably owns the land and buildings.”