Published: 16:46, 15 May 2019
| Updated: 16:56, 15 May 2019
A popular nursery has been saved from the brink of closure by another outstanding-rated childcare provider.
Abbot House Nursery in Seasalter has been operating for about 40 years - and for the past 15 has been run successfully by neighbouring St Alphege Church, securing the highest possible rating in its last Ofsted inspection in 2016.
But in December, the church announced it was shutting the much-loved facility, which looks after more than 30 children aged two to four and employs about nine people.
Vicar Paulette Stubbings said the difficult decision was made as a result of changes to the way the government finances nurseries.
In a letter sent to parents, she said: “Those government changes have included requiring an increase in the number of admissions to nursery of children from the age of two with their associated needs, but without a corresponding increase in funding.
“More targets to be achieved have been added, resulting in much higher levels of administration, and pressure has been put on nurseries to reduce staff-to-child ratios.
“This is particularly a challenge for small, multi-room nurseries like Abbot House.”
The nursery was scheduled to close on July 19 - prompting many parents to speak out about their disappointment.
'We are delighted that nursery provision will be able to continue in our local community' - Rev Paulette Stubbings
Clare Spice, of Beaconsfield in Seasalter, was among those devastated to learn about the closure - and appealed for the community to get behind the nursery.
Mrs Spice - who has three daughters who went to Abbot House, with the eldest later working at the nursery - said: “We haven’t got another around Seasalter really.
“It’s such very sad news for all staff, parents, grandparents and children young and old.
“I’m hoping many people can try to support and save this great little local nursery.”
After listening to parents’ concerns, St Alphege Church agreed to look at alternative courses of action.
Now, Rev Stubbings has confirmed the premises is set to continue as a nursery - run by Canterbury-based Rough Common Pre-School.
She said: “We’re pleased to say that a new nursery provider has been found for the Abbot House nursery site on Faversham Road.
“Subject to negotiations, Rough Common Pre-School have been awarded the lease.
“We are delighted that nursery provision will be able to continue in our local community - and by a quality provider who have just been awarded an outstanding rating by Ofsted.”
Rev Stubbings added: “Negotiations are underway to enable the necessary legal arrangements for the transfer to take place, but existing staff employment will be protected and the hope is that existing children will transfer and continue under the new provider.”
Rough Common Pre-School has confirmed directors Michelle Seary and Janine Scott are negotiating to re-open Abbot House in September 2019.
Ms Seary added: “We are very excited about the prospect of being able to continue to offer childcare in this setting as the closure of Abbot House will be a huge loss to the community of Seasalter and the wider Whitstable area.”
The site will be renamed “Little Oaks”.
Mrs Spice says the community is delighted with the result.
“We’re very happy it’s now going to be a nursery,” she said. “It’s very good news - everyone’s happy about it.
“My granddaughter was pulled out because we didn’t want her getting settled there, then having to leave.
“But if it’s to continue as a nursery, she’ll probably go back on the waiting list.”
The Rough Common directors are hosting a series of open days in August and September, with further details to be released in due course.
For more call Rough Common Pre-School on 07519 542 054.