Two pre-schools in Blackbird Leys are facing the threat of closure

The Oxford Times: Two-year-olds Harlen Arbour, left, and Amalia Dyer, Two-year-olds Harlen Arbour, left, and Amalia Dyer,

AN OXFORD MP has raised concerns after it was revealed two Blackbird Leys pre-schools are under threat of closure.

Shepherds Hill and Little Doves are both to shut down, leaving about 120 two- and three-year-olds with no educational facilities.

Shepherds Hill, based at Windale Primary School, has been told it must leave its two rooms on the site by the end of August as the school struggles to accommodate a growing number of pupils.

And Little Doves at Dovecote Centre in Nightingale Avenue has been unable to find a supervisor and will close next Friday.

In October it was rated satisfactory by Ofsted inspectors.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith, who lives in Blackbird Leys, said: “This double threat is totally unacceptable. These are vital nursery provisions – everybody knows how important it is to both children and families.”

Shepherds Hill pre-school looks after 88 children between the ages of two and three and pays £6,000 a year in rent to the school.

The Oxford Times:

  • Sarah Pearson

Manager Sarah Pearson said they were trying to find another location, but had so far failed.

She said: “In February we were told we would have to move out at the end of August.

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“Many of our children are funded — there is not enough provisions on offer for these children.

“We are full as it is, and we know other places are, so we just don’t know where all these children are going to go.”

Meelie Whitlock, 28, whose three-year-old daughter Faith attends Little Doves, said: “It is so sudden and so sad. My daughter has grown up so much since she has been there.

“I don’t understand why one of the current members of staff couldn’t have been trained up to take on the supervisor position, as they are all very good.”

Blackbird Leys city councillor Val Smith, Mr Smith’s wife, said: “We need to explore other options, every single thing that we can.

“With the Little Doves closing as well there will be no provisions for two-year-olds in Blackbird Leys.

“I’m trying to get to the bottom of it.

Oxfordshire County Council should be very concerned and very, very worried. Hopefully they will do whatever they can.”

Jill Hudson, executive director of the Blackbird Leys Academy which runs Windale Primary School, said: “We don’t want to do this, but we have absolutely no option.

“The school is getting bigger and bigger and next year will be our crunch year.”

County council spokesman Owen Morton said Little Doves announced its intention to close following its Ofsted inspection.

He added: “We are in discussion with Shepherds Hill and the Blackbird Academy Trust, which currently provides accommodation for the pre-school, regarding potential options for the future of children’s early education in Blackbird Leys.

“We are also investigating the possibility of running extra sessions for young children at the local children’s centre and discussing options with other providers in the area, including local schools.

“Families seeking further information regarding funded early years provision can access help from the council's Family Information Service.”

  • A petition has been set up to save Shepherd’s Hill and can be found at petition.co.uk/save-shepherds-hill-pre-school

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