SHOCKED pre-school staff have been made redundant from a popular and oversubscribed Huddersfield nursery.
Fourteen members of staff yesterday worked their last day at First Class Nursery in Portland Street, which is run by Kirklees College.
They made up part of the 19 staff who are being made redundant – representing almost 50% of all nursery staff.
The job losses follow assurances from College bosses in May that the nursery would be monitored until summer 2012 and no decision would be taken on its future until after that date.
But staff members confirmed they were told they would have to apply for the reduced number of jobs. Interviews for the remaining positions were only held last week, which meant that some workers had just a few days’ notice.
Some have been employed at First Class in Portland Street for up to 15 years and helped the nursery to gain a reputation for excellence.
Parents, some of whom are paying £500 a month per child, are campaigning to keep the nursery open.
They claim that the speed and Kirklees College’s handling of the redundancies has been a big shock for staff. Many have been in tears over the last two weeks.
Susan Greenwood, of Rafborn Grove, Salendine Nook, has three children who have attended the nursery over a 13-year period.
She said: “The staff are fantastic but they are now demoralised, upset and scared.
“It is all happening so quickly and has been handled appallingly. The selection process seems to be arbitrary, we are unhappy with the method used to select ‘the new team’.
“The only consultation parents have had is a letter from June Davidson (the college’s childcare support manager) asking us how much more we would be prepared to pay for the nursery. That is all they are bothered about.”
On Thursday campaigners were outside the Portland Street building asking parents to sign a petition expressing their “anger and distress at the manner in which the recent and ongoing staff restructuring at First Class Nursery has been handled.”
According to campaigner Stephen Garside, whose son Alexander attended the nursery until the end of this term, all parents he approached were keen to add their names to the petition.
He said: “We are stakeholders in this nursery, but there has been no consultation with us.
“Some parents did not even know that members of staff are leaving.
“It is like a gaping wound. Once parents hear about the redundancies, they will be taking their children away because they will want continuity for their children.
“We believe the college has already decided to close the nursery. There has been a veil of secrecy, but their mind is already made up.”
Mr Huw Thomas, Kirklees College’s director of student services, said 19 of the staff have taken voluntary redundancy and a further 19 were on term-time only contracts and finished this week due to the end of term.
He said: “We understand that the restructure of the staffing at the nursery has caused upset to a number of staff and appreciate that this is a difficult time for them personally.
“We have worked with our staff and the unions during a 30-day consultation to establish a new structure in order to keep the nursery open for the next year and hopefully beyond.”
He added: “There was no consultation with parents on the restructure of the nursery as this was an internal consultation with staff. Childcare provision for fee-paying parents will not be affected by this restructure.
“The decision on the future of the nursery after next summer has not yet been taken.”