Fears over the future of private Hartlepool nursery service

Director and owner Sharon Birch from Footprints Learning for Life Ltd.
Director and owner Sharon Birch from Footprints Learning for Life Ltd.

Parents of children attending a Hartlepool nursery have been told the service will close in just a few weeks’ time.

Bosses at Footprints Rift House Nursery, which is based at the Children’s Centre building in Masefield Road in the town, say they have been told by Hartlepool Borough Council chiefs that their tenancy at the site will come to an end in less than a month.

Council chiefs say Footprints operated nursery services for two-year-olds within Rift House Children’s Centre, while Rift House School Nursery was operated for children age three and four from within the school building.

But now the school is looking to expand its nursery provision into an integrated service to include two-year-olds from within the Children’s Centre from September.

A letter to parents and carers written by Footprints Learning for Life Limited company director and owner Sharon Birch states: “As you know we kindly let Rift House School Nursery have our building after the devastating arson attack.

“Unfortunately, it was SATs week, and as we have always worked in partnership with our local authority and other providers and businesses, we agreed to vacate for a short time.

“We were hoping to have the building back at the beginning of half-term.

“Unfortunately, the local authority has extended this period, and we were told we could not be back in the building until July 24.

“However, yesterday, July 4, without consultation or consideration, we were informed that our tenancy contract with the local authority would be terminated with 28 days’ notice so that Rift House School nursery could occupy it from September to deliver the services we currently provide.

“Therefore it is with deep regret that we have to inform you that Footprints LFL Nursery will no longer provide a service from the Rift House Children’s Centre.”

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “In 2013, Rift House was highlighted as an area where there were insufficient nursery places for two-year-olds.

“The council has a duty to ensure sufficient childcare places are available which are accessible for families across the town and, as a result of this, Footprints began to deliver a service for two-year-olds from Rift House Children’s Centre.

“The adjacent Rift House Primary School offered nursery provision for three and four-year-olds and would now like to develop their own provision to include two-year-olds.

“Following the recent fire, which destroyed much of the school, they want to work in partnership with the council to provide an integrated nursery service from the Children’s Centre from September.”