A REPORT into the future of two nursery schools in Darlington has recommended their closure.
The 90-day consultation into the Kids and Co schools on Borough Road and Northwood concluded that the service is operating at an annual loss to Darlington Council of £212,000.
Alternatives looked at by the council, including merging both schools into one, reducing provision and streamlining management, fail to make the service sustainable and a report due for consideration by the council’s cabinet on Tuesday recommends the closure of both schools and the Flexi Childcare Service.
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This would result in the loss of 43 jobs, costing the council a total of £171,952 in redundancies.
It would also mean 180 fewer childcare places in Darlington, although the council says there are enough alternative places to accommodate youngsters without the Kids and Co provision.
The report states: “All three Kids and Co services are running at a total deficit of £212,000 per annum at a time when the council is having to prioritise services in accordance with its statutory obligations and its available budget.
“In spite of extensive detailed work, no model of running the provision has been identified which removes the need for a council subsidy.”
If the council’s cabinet agrees with the report’s recommendations, it is anticipated that the Flexi Childcare Service would close immediately after the required period of notice for staff.
In an attempt to minimise disruption to the 89 families affected, Kids and Co would stay open until the end of the spring term for children under three, while the 95 children due to start primary school in September 2013 could stay on until August.
The Darlington branch of UNISON has objected to the proposed closures and says that alternative options have not been fully explored.
UNISON’s assistant branch secretary Dawn Taylor called on the council to defer any decision until all other options had been fully investigated and parent Sarah Walker, who led the Save Kids and Co campaign, agrees that more time is needed.
She said: “What we want as parents is to delay the decision; if they could just give us a year to try doing things a different way, then if it still doesn’t work we can say fair enough at least they tried.
“We are not giving up,” she added.