Little Owls Leeds: List of council nurseries at closure risk as parents express anger and staff 'in tears'

Parents across Leeds have been left outraged at plans to close a number of council-run nurseries with just weeks of notice.
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The future of Little Owls Nurseries, which operates 24 centres across Leeds, is in doubt after Leeds City Council confirmed a review of council-managed nurseries - based upon "sufficiency, need and financial viability" as part of sweeping cost-saving measures in the local authority's new budget.

The council said its Little Owls teams were "happy to support parents to explore the availability" of securing a place at another council-run nursery site.

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Parents have this week been sent letters informing them that three of the centres - Kentmere, Chapel Allerton and Gipton North - are at risk of closures that could be implemented as early as May.

Laurence Hayes, whose child attends Little Owls Gipton North, told the Yorkshire Evening Post that the announcement has left parents shocked and confused.

The future of Little Owls Nurseries, which operates 24 centres across Leeds, is in doubt. Pictures: Little owls/Google and NWThe future of Little Owls Nurseries, which operates 24 centres across Leeds, is in doubt. Pictures: Little owls/Google and NW
The future of Little Owls Nurseries, which operates 24 centres across Leeds, is in doubt. Pictures: Little owls/Google and NW

He said: "The timescale is the most shocking thing. The letter said the proposals were approved in December but they seem to have sat on it for three months then given us until mid-May.

"I feel sorry for the staff, I feel sorry for some of the other parents who are more reliant on it and for the older children who are due to start primary school in September and now have this massive disruption to their schedule."

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The proposals come as part of the 2024/25 financial budget, where the council needs to save a further £58.4m in the year ahead, alongside £7.4m of already agreed savings.

A formal decision on the nurseries is expected to be made by mid-April and the council said it was engaging with stakeholders and parents.

Another parent told the YEP: "This morning, dropping my daughter at nursery, I was met by the deputy manager in tears with a letter in her hand, informing us that Gipton North is to close in six weeks.

"The Government announced that children can get all these free nursery hours from the age of nine months, which no one can access because every nursery has a waiting list. But Leeds City Council have decided that to save money, they are closing nurseries down.

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"So now parents are left with six weeks notice to find a new placement, in already oversubscribed nurseries, or face not being able to go to work. I work in a patient facing role. I can't do that from home."

In November, Leeds City Council described its financial situation as "desire" and set out a series of "unpopular" cost-saving measures.

The measures included the introduction of parking charges, which will be introduced at Leeds beauty spots including Roundhay Park, Otley Chevin and Golden Acre Park.

A spokesperson for the council said: "The proposals to review the council’s Little Owls nursery provision across the city were originally put before the council’s executive board in February.

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"The initial outcome of this review has since identified three Little Owls nurseries from 24 which we are proposing to close in order to make important savings whilst also having the least impact on nursery provision across the city as a whole.

"We understand the concerns of parents and communities which could be affected by these proposals. Our Little Owls teams are happy to support parents to explore the availability of a place at another Little Owls nursery and the Family Information Service can also advise on other providers in the area.

"We are engaging with stakeholders and parents on the potential of changes prior to any formal decision being made and will remain in contact with parents throughout this process."

As part of the review, all 24 council-run Little Owls nurseries have been categorised under the headings 'Close', 'Explore' or 'Retain'.

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The current categorisation of the nurseries, at the time of writing, can be found below in the council's own terminology.

Close: The nurseries identified for potential closure by the end of May 2024.

  • Kentmere
  • Chapel Allerton
  • Gipton North

Explore: To explore the market to see if another provider is willing to deliver additional daycare provision to replace the council delivery of the following Little Owls;

  • Shepherds Lane
  • Meanwood
  • St Mary’s Hunslet
  • Hawksworth Wood
  • City & Holbeck
  • Parklands
  • Quarry Mount
  • Bramley
  • Hunslet Rylestone
  • Osmondthorpe
  • Rothwell
  • Burley Park

Retain: Settings the council will continue to directly deliver day care at;

  • Chapeltown
  • New Bewerley
  • Little London
  • Harehills
  • Swarcliffe
  • Seacroft
  • Middleton Laurel Bank
  • Two Willows
  • Armley Moor

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