Save Little Owls nursery protest
Save Little Owls nursery protest

‘Isabel Grant’, Little Owls nursery parent

“Leeds City Council hear us say, Little Owls nurseries here to stay”, rang the chants as 25 parents lobbied the council’s executive. Then, just three days later, 50 parents and activists marched from Gipton North Little Owls to the local park, getting toots of support from passing cars.

There was particular anger that Gipton North was up for closure, despite the waiting list being over a year long. For some working parents, this has meant extending maternity leave, or being forced to leave employment due to lack of provision in the area.

Parents were shocked when they received letters saying that three council-run nurseries were going to close in May 2024, and a further 12 could be privatised. Facing parents’ anger, the Labour council was almost immediately forced to backtrack. It delayed closures until August, and promised a consultation.

Consultation letters have now started going to parents, but only cover existing parents. They don’t include prospective parents – some have told us that the council has told them that their children’s places won’t be available.

Online consultation meetings have been called, with only a week’s notice in some cases. They will be when many parents are getting children ready for bed, meaning most single parents and main caregivers won’t have the opportunity to take part, with only one session per nursery.

We want our say

But, despite these obstacles being placed in parents’ way, we want to arm parents with questions to ask, so the clear conclusion of the consultation reflects the massive opposition that exists.

Given that the childcare crisis is national, we are linking up with other nursery campaigns. We were invited to speak at a meeting putting the case for publicly owned nurseries, alongside nursery campaigners and striking National Education Union (NEU) members in London.

With a general election later in the year, why can’t the Labour-run council keep these nurseries open, and call on an incoming Keir Starmer-led government to properly fund childcare? Many parents are rightly sceptical that Labour will even take such much-needed measures like that.

One Little Owls nursery parent, Socialist Party member Iain Dalton, is standing in the council election as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in Gipton and Harehills ward. Seven TUSC candidates are standing across Leeds.

We need political representatives who will refuse to vote for cuts, and instead put their energy into organising and supporting campaigns like ours.

Read what we’ve said before at ‘Leeds Labour making up nursery cuts as they go along’