Two dozen jobs at risk as West Notts College reveal nursery to close

Butterflies Day Nursery at West Notts College is due to close, due to 'financial challenges'.

A letter to parents states: "As you may be aware, the college is facing some significant financial challenges, which has meant that we had to review various aspects of our business.

Butterflies Day Nursery at West Notts College is due to close, due to 'financial challenges'.

Butterflies Day Nursery at West Notts College is due to close, due to 'financial challenges'.

"We have explored a number of options that would enable us to continue with [the nursery].

"Unfortunately, we have been unable to source any additional support.

"We understand this will be extremely upsetting."

READ MORE: West Notts College ends use of corporate credit cards after former principal claimed £40k expenses

The college has invited parents to a meeting to discuss the closure on January 23, at the Derby Road campus at 5.30pm.

Butterflies Day Nursery opened in 2001 and operates from a purpose-built facility on the Derby Road campus of West Nottinghamshire College, in Mansfield.

It caters for children aged from six weeks to pre-school five-year-olds, who are cared for in four separate rooms depending on age. Customers include college students, staff and members of the public from Mansfield, Ashfield and surrounding areas.

Currently, the nursery has around 70 children on its books, who attend on various days and times of the week. It is registered to accommodate a maximum of 47 children at any one time. Weekly occupancy has shown a downward trend since 2015/16 and currently stands at around 61%.

The nursery employs 24 staff members, both full-time and part-time (of which six are sessional employees, working on an ad-hoc basis), who have been placed at risk of redundancy. These are included in the 78 non-teaching posts set to go in the coming weeks as part of a planned re-structure at the college, which is expected to save £2.7m.

A spokesperson for West Nottinghamshire College said: “Our present financial difficulties mean some extremely tough decisions have to be made to reduce our operating costs and balance the books.

READ MORE: “No impact on students” as West Notts College forced to seek £2m loan

“Unfortunately, the number of children attending our on-site day nursery has fallen in recent years and it continues to operate at a loss. Furthermore, the nursery building is in need of refurbishment. To try and increase occupancy, we’d need to make a significant capital investment of around £80,000 to bring it up to standard.

“Sadly, the college can no longer afford to subsidise the running costs or fund a refurbishment. To do so would mean reducing other budgets that currently support students’ teaching and learning. Furthermore, the present size of the nursery limits its ability to generate a profit to re-invest in the facilities.

"We have tried extensively to find and access other funding streams in order to avoid closure but our status as a Further Education college presents barriers.

“We fully recognise that the nursery’s dedicated staff provide an exceptional service to the children and families they serve. This was underlined by Butterflies’ being judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted following successive inspections. This decision is in no way a reflection of the nursery’s offer – it is simply an issue of financial viability.

“This is a highly-regrettable situation which we know is upsetting for all those affected. We are keen to give staff, parents and carers as much support as possible to find alternative employment or secure places with other providers, and have extended the notice period to two months. We will be contacting other local nurseries to identify whether places are available for their children and explore whether job vacancies can be ring-fenced for Butterflies staff.”

The announcement comes just days after West Notts College ended use of corporate credit cards after former principal claimed £40k expenses.

As reported by FE week, a further education news site, spending included visits to fine-dining restaurants, five-star hotels and a private members’ club.

According to documents obtained by FE Week, Dame Asha spent £41,666.96 between 2013/14 and 2017/18 on her corporate card, despite earning £262,000 in 2016/17.

The college revealed it's financial difficulty last year after 100 jobs were axed.

READ MORE: 100 jobs under threat at West Notts College

Long-serving college principal and chief executive Dame Asha Khemka stepped down from her £262,000 per year role at the start of October 2018, before the college was placed in “administered” after a report revealed a “serious corporate failure” at the college.

There is nothing to suggest Dame Asha’s expenses were not in line with the college’s policies or that they were wrongly claimed.