Fakenham nursery may never reopen

The sign for Fakenham Gateway SureStart Children's Centre on Norwich Road. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The sign for Fakenham Gateway SureStart Children's Centre on Norwich Road. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

A Fakenham nursery which parents had hoped might reopen this month after shutting in May over child safety issues may close permanently, it has emerged.

No final decision appears to have been made over the future of Fakenham Gateway Sure Start Children's Centre's nursery.

But parents said they have been told by county council representatives that the nursery, on Norwich Road, will not be open before Christmas and may never reopen at all.

Parents have expressed disappointment over the situation and disputed Norfolk County Council's claims that there are already enough nursery facilities in the Fakenham area.

They were told in July that the nursery would remain closed until September at the earliest.

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Beth Dorward, who lives in Syderstone, has a two-year-old daughter who has been attending the nursery for more than a year.

Ms Dorward said she, and other parents, had been told in meetings with county council officials that there was a strong possibility that the nursery might never reopen and been advised to seek alternative nursery facilities.

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She is now on a waiting list to get into Fakenham Children's Daycare Centre, on Field Lane.

Ms Dorward said: 'I understand it is a difficult situation but it's frustrating that it has taken three months and things appear to be no further forward. There seems to be so much bureaucracy involved.

'It's very important to find childcare that you're happy with and we were very happy with the care my daughter was getting. That is why we have hung on in the hope that the nursery would re-open.

'The county council seem to believe this is not a big deal and that there are plenty of other similar facilities in Fakenham but that's just not the case.

'There are other pre-schools in Fakenham which provide the service part-time, during term time, but that is not enough if you work full-time.

'There is only one other full-time nursery in Fakenham, which I'm now on a waiting list for, and one in Great Ryburgh which is more expensive.'

Laura Marshall, 28, who lives in Fakenham, has a two-year-old daughter who was attending Fakenham Gateway Sure Start Children's Centre's nursery.

She said: 'The council told me there is no shortage of childcare places in Fakenham but that's not true.

'I've got my daughter in at Fakenham Children's Daycare Centre for one day a week and they tell me they haven't got the space for the number of parents ringing up.

'I've got a four-month-old as well who I'm going to have to find a place for.

'My girl was always really shy, but she came out of herself at the nursery, and she loved going there. She sobbed and sobbed when it closed.

'It seems to me they now want to close it for political reasons because the county council is going through a tough time over childcare services and they just want to close this nursery and not have to deal with the problems.'

Fakenham Gateway Sure Start Children's Centre's nursery was closed on May 21 by the board of governors.

Since then, Ofsted suspended the centre's registration because of concerns over child safety.

Norfolk County Council told The Times it is considering the future of the nursery but would not confirm or deny claims that the nursery could be closed permanently.

Jo-anne Lamb , quality and improvement advisor early years at Norfolk County Council, said: 'We have been working closely with Fakenham Children's Centre to explore concerns raised about the supervision of children within their day care provision.

'This has included carrying out a thorough investigation, alongside Ofsted, to examine the circumstances surrounding three separate incidents that happened in May.

'We have found shortcomings in the day-to-day running of the daycare and have advised the centre to keep its childcare provision closed while we consider its future.

'We have been working closely with parents to ensure that they have alternative childcare in place and have now either found places or have plans in place to increase the number of places in the near future for all those families that have asked for support.'

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: 'We cannot give details on the specific incidents as this would risk identifying the children involved.

'However, they happened over a two-day period in May. All involved issues with the supervision of children and deployment of staff. No children were seriously injured and there were no allegations made against any of the staff.

'Our investigation is complete and as outlined above, we have found shortcomings in the day-to-day running of the daycare.'

The spokesman added: 'We have been working with daycare providers in and around Fakenham to increase the number of places for three and four-year-old children, and we know there are sufficient places for this age group.

'We continue to work closely with the children's centre in Fakenham to try to increase the number of places for children aged 0-2.'

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