Save Salford Nurseries campaigners were outside The Midland Hotel in Manchester this afternoon with banners and around two letters addressed to Nadhim Zahawi, Tory Government Under-Secretary of State for Education, who was attending a national conference of children's service directors along with Damien Hinds, Secretary of State for Education.
Salford City Council originally intended to close five of its nurseries due to early years funding formula changes which would have left a financial hole in its budgets. The Government stated that it would be 'flexible' on the matter, and then the Council found £1.5million funding to keep the nurseries open until September 2019, while the fight to save them long term continued.
Zahawi met campaigners at Parliament in May promising a statement and support Ė but nothing has been heard since. So today, the activist mountain went to the metaphorical Muhammad, complete with banners and around two hundred letters addressed to him reminding of his promise 'to provide a statement confirming that you would work with us to find a solution but the statement never came...to work with us to secure the long term future of the nurseries...to visit out outstanding Ofsted rated nurseries...'
"He says he's not got time to visit Salford nurseries but he's managed to make it all the way to Manchester, and I believe he's going to visit a nursery somewhere else not in Salford" said Salford City UNISON's Ameen Hadi who represents staff at the nurseries.
"He said he'd work with the campaign and Salford Council to find a solution, yet no solution has been offered" he added "The solution is quite simple for us; that we should be treated the same way as school maintained nurseries. We offer the same service to the same vulnerable children and their funding is guaranteed until 2020, so why aren't our nurseries being treated in the same way?
"I saw Theresa May on Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday saying she valued all nurseries and didn't want any of them to close, so how does that stack up with five nurseries being threatened in Salford?" he asked "Ultimately we're here to remind him to deliver, otherwise there will be more protests and more meetings and more action from parents and unions."
One of the parents present, Hollie Swindells, whose son, Jake, goes to Little Hulton nursery, added "The five outstanding nurseries provide great support in the community and we don't want to see them closed. He said he'd provide a statement and we haven't received one so we're just here to try and get him to come out and give us support like he said he would do..."
Neither Damien Hinds nor Nadhim Zahawi came out to speak to the campaigners.