Portlethen parents “concerned” over playgroup closure

a GROUP of concerned parents whose children attend a playgroup in Portlethen have criticised Aberdeenshire Council’s decision to close it, saying that their figures are wrong.

The Portlethen 3-5’s group has fallen victim to the local authority’s planned budget cuts of £58 million and is scheduled for closure in the summer.

Mother-of-two Alison Campbell (39), said: “Portlethen is a young family town, with a high number of new families that have moved in at Hillside.

“It doesn’t make sense to close down a lovely facility like this when there is a demand for it. If the other nurseries were sitting empty then fair enough but that isn’t the case.”

Ms Campbell said that after doing some research she had discovered that of 260 children in Portlethen eligible to get a local nursery space, there were only 234 spaces. She said: “That leaves a minimum of 26 children with no allocation.”

The group have been told that the closure is part of an effort to fill other nurseries in the surrounding area - meaning that some Portlethen children may be allocated a nursery place in Newtonhill or Lairhillock, but Ms Campbell told the Leader that this was not a suitable option for many parents who don’t have transport, and could also cause problems for the children, who would be separated from their nursery friends when the moved into Primary one.

Alison said that another suggested option to privatise the group was unrealistic. She said: “There is already a privately funded nursery in Portlethen which I have been involved with in the past. It takes a lot of money, hard work and commitment to keep it running and most mums work nowadays. It’s very hard to find the time. The other group is very successful but Portlethen is a small community and there is only so much fundraising that you can expect to do here. The two primary schools and Bourtree nursery are already constantly fundraising and to add a fourth facility to the equation just wouldn’t be viable.”

The group have received backing from North Kincardine Councillor Paul Melling, who took their case to Aberdeenshire Council’s Director of Education.

Cllr Melling said: “It was a very positive meeting, and the director of education agreed to take a look at the factd and figures and review the case. 3-5’s groups are part of the education process and under the law we have to provide places. We need to find out where we are going to get these commissioned places.

“These mums are extremely worried and concerned and I share those concerns. But if we can get some more information then it can help them to realise what their options are.”

Cllr Melling added that the director of education has agreed to hold a public meeting to discuss the closure but a date has yet to be confirmed.