COUNCILORS have dismissed concerns of parents in Penarth that a nursery would relocate after merging with a local primary school.
Bute Cottage Nursery could soon merge with Evenlode Primary School, and Cogan Nursery could merge with Cogan Primary School, if plans currently under consultation are approved.
More than 900 people have petitioned against the merger of Bute Cottage Nursery with Evenlode, in large part due to fears the nursery would be relocated from its current site and rebuilt next to the primary school.
But councillors at the Vale of Glamorgan council last week insisted there were no plans to relocate the nursery, and said rumours about it relocating were due to “misinformation” and people not reading documents in full.
The plans under consultation involve merging just the governance and management of the nurseries and schools, and each nursery would stay in its current location.
The merger plans were discussed on Thursday, October 14, by the learning and culture scrutiny committee. Councillors were mainly supportive of the plans, as a merger would both save money and make it smoother for pupils to transition from nursery to primary school.
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Councillor Neil Thomas, a former governor at Evenlode, said: “One problem was the transition from Bute Cottage to Evenlode, because Bute Cottage was using different reading and numeracy schemes from Evenlode. It was a source of irritation for the reception teachers that they had to basically reteach the children to fit into the new schemes.
“This change should improve that situation, because you’re not going to get that conflict of schemes.
“There’s a lot of misinformation going around, and there’s a lot on social media saying that the Bute Cottage site is going to be closed and developed, and the open area next to it is going to become a building site. None of which is referred to in this report and all of which has been denied.
“They’re alleging that there are plans to move Bute Cottage physically and rebuild it on the grounds of Evenlode—again that is something expressly ruled out. But that’s something being put out on social media, and I’m wondering if that’s for political reasons to stir up anxiety and worry among the community. There are no such plans in place.”
As part of the public consultation, a cabinet report was published describing the merger plans in detail. According to Cllr Gordon Kemp, chair of the scrutiny committee, some of the concerns could be caused by people not reading that 17-page report in full.
He said: “I think part of the problem with the original cabinet report was the reference that they would remain in the same buildings was tucked away in the report. It wasn’t there right at the beginning, and perhaps some people don’t read as far as they should, unfortunately.”
However, the cabinet report, towards the end, discussed how the council would indeed consider relocating the nursery. It said: “Should the proposals be approved, the council would prioritise relocating nursery provision at Evenlode Primary School onto a single site.”
The report added the council would first assess the feasibility of the relocation, and would then also consult the public before any changes.
Cllr Lis Burnett, cabinet member for education and regeneration, denied there were any plans to relocate the nursery. But she added the council would “probably” explore if it were possible.
She said: “There are no plans to change the sites of either the nursery schools. There is a small section in the consultation document that says that there would be feasibility work undertaken to see whether or not there should be a move over to the Evenlode site. It’s one of those things where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
“If we hadn’t put anything in and somebody had said ‘what are you going to do about moving to one site’, we would say we’ll probably do some feasibility work on it to see whether or not it’s an option. But if we put it in, then it’s a done deal. It’s not a done deal.
“I really don’t know how you could build a separate nursery on the Evenlode site, but that’s my personal view. But if that feasibility work proved that it were possible, then you would have to go right the way back to another consultation. This is purely about amalgamating management and governance functions within the schools.”
The consultation runs until November 5 and details of the plans can be found on the council’s website. If approved, the mergers would take effect from September 2. The two nurseries are currently some of the last remaining standalone nurseries across the Vale.