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Election letters 2019 / Lack of additional nursery hours huge strain on working families

I am a mother of three, settled in the Sandwick community where my husband and I have built our home. Our two eldest are at the Sandwick Junior High whilst our youngest is in her pre-school year at nursery. My husband and I both work – I am currently in my final year of a Nursing degree.

The recent closure in June this year of the Central Private Nursery (CPN) in Sandwick has had a huge impact, leaving parents struggling with childcare and no pre-school provision outwith the basic school nursery hours.

The school is now offering an After School Club (ASC) until 4.30pm Mon-Thurs, which is helpful to some extent.  

However, with the school now closing at 2pm on Fridays, no mention of a breakfast club, and the ASC unavailable for pre-school children, we are still finding things really difficult.

I feel it is unacceptable in such a busy community that there is this lack of consideration and provision for working families.

The introduction of extra nursery hours in school nurseries across Shetland being phased in, rather than across the board, is incredibly frustrating when you live in an area that will be years behind others.

Families living in Sandwick are at a considerable disadvantage compared with communities such as Dunrossness ten minutes away who are already offered many more free pre-school hours.

We have paid private childcare fees up until the closure of CPN, which we just accepted as our only option, but are now left with nothing, paid or otherwise.

For this final year before all of our children are in school, this causes a huge strain on us as a family. We are currently having to ask favours from friends just to cover us for the three days a week I work, whilst we attempt to find something more permanent.

The Scottish Government’s Education and Care Policy (2019), states that families should be supported by the provision of additional nursery hours, giving parents the opportunity to work and study.  

We are not the only ones in this situation – several children in the community have actually been moved from Sandwick school this term to settings offering more adequate hours for working parents. 

Realistically this matter affects people’s ability to continue in employment… how will NHS Shetland cope if nurses with families are unable to work? 

Ahead of Thursday’s election, can any of our local candidates provide any practical suggestions?

Jenny Welsh
Sandwick