PARENTS in a small village have accused East Lothian Council of trying to close their school after an announcement was made that it was mothballing the nursery for a year.

The council informed parents of children attending Humbie Nursery two weeks ago that it would not reopen after the summer.

It is the second time in recent years that the council has shut the nursery, and the local authority warned that the low number of children attending meant the cost of keeping the nursery running was costing nearly £27,000 per pupil – more than five times as much as other nurseries.

The move, which the council insists is temporary and will be reviewed in a year, has sparked anger among families in the village.

Luke Dalrymple, chair of Humbie Primary School Parent Council, said that they had launched a formal complain with the council’s head of education, saying the decision would "strangle" the school and "starve" the community.

He said: “We view this closure as a blatant attempt to strangle our school and therefore starve our community.

'Convenient tool'

“The closure of the nursery will actively diminish potential pupil numbers within the school for the future, as has already happened as a result of the previous mothballing process.

“We view this as a convenient tool to undergo a future closure of the school in order to allocate money to larger communities while underhandedly destroying our own.”

East Lothian Council says that the cost of a nursery place at Humbie, which this year had between five and six children attending, was five times that of placing a child in the larger cluster area at £26,928 per child per year – compared to the wider ward cost of about £5,104 per child per year.

However, parents whose children attend the nursery or were due to start next term have hit back, saying that no effort has been made to increase its numbers or promote it.

One family, who have a child about to enter P2 and another due to start at the nursery after the summer, said that they applied for a place and did not receive any reply from the council.

The children’s dad said that his wife, who is expecting twins in a few months, had expected to be able to walk her older children to class from their home and now faced having to drive.

'A done deal'

He said: “The nursery provision for our son for the post-summer term was a major part of our plan, as she could simply walk to the nursery and collect him instead of now having to pack up twins and a 5/6-year-old and drive to Dalkeith.

“The council and planning policies promote 20-minute communities, yet this act is certainly going against that.”

Another mum whose son attends the school nursery said that she would have to drive in opposite directions to take him to the new nursery and her younger child, who is too young to go to the council facility, to the nearest private one she was able to get a place in.

She said: “The first I knew of this was a couple of weeks ago. We have had no discussions or consultations carried out, no one even asked us about how it would impact our families. It was presented as a done deal.

“The council has really let us down and it feels like we are being ignored or dismissed because we are a small rural community.”

East Lothian Council previously mothballed the nursery in 2019 due to low numbers, sparking a two-year battle by families to have it reopened.

An East Lothian Council spokesperson said: “Humbie Nursery setting will be closing for academic year 2023/ 24 as part of a mothballing arrangement due to the low numbers of children currently attending and applications for enrolment for next session.

“As an authority, we have a responsibility to ensure that we are providing best value throughout our services and across East Lothian.

“Having nurseries operating significantly below capacity does not represent best value for our council or demonstrate equitable allocation of financial resource across the county.

“The quality of experience for children is also diminished when operating with low numbers.

“We are confident that we can continue to meet children’s and families’ needs for high-quality early learning and childcare provision both within the ward area and across the county while balancing our budget position.”