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Community / Recruitment difficulty forces Sandwick nursery to close

The Central Private Nursery in Sandwick's former Central Bakery.

THE CENTRAL Private Nursery and Out of School Care facility in Sandwick is set to close its doors in June after failing to recruit new staff.

Proprietor Mairi Jamieson said it “breaks her heart” to have to close the nursery after 20 years, with a couple of staff due to lose their jobs.

The private nursery’s closure comes at a time when Shetland Islands Council is recruiting to a host of early learning and childcare posts as part of a Scottish Government drive to increase the number of funded hours on offer.

Jamieson said that her nursery, which has about 20 children at the moment, finds it hard to compete with the council’s rates.

Unlike the Sandwick Junior High School nursery, the Central Private Nursery offers care for children as young as six months old – meaning the closure on 4 June will come as a particular blow to working parents with infants.

South mainland councillor George Smith gave his commitment that Shetland Islands Council would look into whether it can help to mitigate the loss of service in the area.

“I’m absolutely devastated,” Jamieson said.

“I’ve had this nursery for 20 years and it breaks my heart to have to do this, but there’s no other option.

“We’ve not been able to recruit more staff in the nursery, so therefore if we’ve not got the staff to provide the care for the children we’ve had no other option but to cease trading.”

Jamieson, who phoned up parents about the news earlier this week, conceded that people were “going for better paid jobs, which is totally understandable”.

She added that the nursery is a “very big part of the community”.

“We take children right from six months here, so we’ve got children under three years that can’t attend school nursery,” Jamieson said. “Those parents will have to look for other private care.”

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It is thought there is only one childminder in Sandwick at the moment, with a couple elsewhere in the south mainland.

There are a only limited number of private nurseries which can take children younger than three years old, including Lerwick’s Peerie Foxes and Hame Fae Hame in Scalloway.

Councillor Smith, who also chairs the council’s education and families committee, said Jamieson has run a “really valuable service” that has helped a lot of parents in Sandwick and the surrounding areas, calling the closure a “big loss”.

He said there will be a lack of provision in the area for childcare for younger ones and older children who may use the likes of Central Private Nursery after school – something which the government funded expansion of early learning hours will not cover.

“That’s the gap that’s going to be there,” Smith said.

“There’s no obligation on the council to provide that service, but I’ve had a number of parents on to me already really concerned about what’s going to happen.”

The councillor said he had spoken to council chief executive Maggie Sandison and director of children’s services Helen Budge about what the local authority could do to help parents.

“I do have a commitment from the officers that they will look to do what they can to see how we can mitigate the situation, certainly in the short term at least,” he said.

Smith stressed the council could not make any promises on this front, while at this stage it is unclear exactly how the situation could be mitigated.

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