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Families left 'heartbroken and upset' after sudden closure of Ardersier nursery Country Bumpkins

By Federica Stefani

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Parents organised emergency childcare as they were notified of a nursery closure with less than 24 hours notice. Stock Image
Parents organised emergency childcare as they were notified of a nursery closure with less than 24 hours notice. Stock Image

PARENTS and staff have taken over social media to organise emergency childcare following the sudden closure of an Ardersier nursery.

Owners at the private nursery Country Bumpkins announced to parents and members of staff on Sunday (June 11) that they would be going into administration as of today (June 12), leaving families scrambling for childcare and staff left home without a job.

The sudden announcement will affect around 60 children who are now left without childcare provisions.

A member of staff – who does not wish to be identified – said: "We were informed by email around 2pm with no prior warning leaving staff without a job with extremely short notice

"This also left parents with children without childcare which is then putting a lot of pressure of them.

"Staff and children were unable to say goodbye to friends and teachers that strong bounds had been made with.

"Parents have commented that they have been left heartbroken and upset."

The nursery was one of the few that provides pre-age-3 services - and was open between 8am-6pm, making it possible for parents to hold down full-time jobs and care for children.

Only recently, parents said, the nursery had spoken of a major £50,000 investment in equipment – while fees had risen again in April, with a full time toddler place costing over £1200 per month.

The announcement made to parents and staff on the app stated: "It is with much regret and sadness that we must inform you that we will not be opening our doors tomorrow (12th June 2023) and will go into administration by the end of this week.

"We are so sorry for putting you all in this situation, but we have no other choice due to the current private nursery staffing crisis which has left us in a situation where we cannot open all rooms next week, unfortunately we cannot see this situation improving over the next 6-12 months. Administrators will take over from some point this week and final bills will be issued by them.

"We would like to thank you for choosing Country Bumpkins, some of you have been using us for childcare for many years as your families grew and it has been a privilege to have been involved along the way."

The nursery opened in 2012 in an old school building on the road out of Ardesier towards Nairn.

Parents and nursery workers got in touch with each other via the nursery app and social media to organise emergency combined care for some children this week to allow parents – who include blood transfusion staff, police officers and procurator fiscals – to continue working.

One local young mother, speaking in the street as news spread, explained her return-to-work plans depended on Country Bumpkins.

The nursery have now closed down their Facebook page – which parents say is making it even more difficult for them to get in touch with members of staff.

Commenting on the news, Ardersier councillor Trish Robertson said the situation is "very disturbing."

"I don't know what has happened exactly yet but that sounds just ridiculous – you would have thought they would at least give some indication to parents and staff beforehand.

"It's really not fair."

Councillor Helen Crawford – who has heavily lobbied for an uplift in early learning and childcare (ELC) rates commented: "I am tremendously sad to hear the news about Country Bumpkins, for their staff and the families.

"This is, as I predicted, precisely what will happen when THC does not pay this sector a sustainable partner rate.

"The u-turn last year was welcome and kept the lights on over the winter but there is a limit to how long we can expect the, mostly female, staff at these private nurseries to continue when they are not paid a proper rate for the crucial work they do.

"These staff are qualified care givers, allowing families to go out to work in the knowledge that their children are being well looked after. And now they will have to scrabble around and find alternatives. Not acceptable at all."

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