Bristol nursery to close - joining a growing number which have shut across the city since the pandemic

A leading nursery industry boss says childcare and early education is in ‘desperate need of reform’

Another Bristol nursery has been forced to close its doors, adding to the growing number which have shut across the city over the past two years.

The Mama Bear’s nursery at Bailey’s Court in Bradley Stoke will merge with the nearby Mama Bear’s Great Park Road Nursery next month.

It’s the latest nursery closure for the Bristol area. In recent months, several have closed including Tik Tok in Keynsham and Mama Bear’s in Oakfield Road, Clifton.

According to the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), there have been at least nine nurseries in the Bristol area to close since June 2021, but they say the actual figure may be higher.

Victoria Ashbolt from Mama Bear’s said: “From February 13, children at our Great Park Road Nursery will be joined by children from our Bailey’s Court setting as we merge the two nurseries.

The Mama Bear’s Great Park Road nursery
The Mama Bear’s Great Park Road nursery
The Mama Bear’s Great Park Road nursery

“There has been significant disruption to the labour market following COVID-19. Our industry is no exception and we continue to battle to recruit and retain high quality staff.

“In order to better protect us against disruptions caused by staff absence and recruitment challenges we have decided to merge our two Bradley Stoke nurseries into one stronger, more resilient provision.

“This means we will be able to offer a more consistent service with a well-established, experienced staff team from the local area, opening up our baby provision and all other rooms again.”

Victoria added that there will be no change to the children’s sessions, fees, or the care and education provided.

“The experienced staff team from Bailey’s Court will transfer to Great Park Road, including the manager and deputy manager, and parents are being offered the opportunity to meet them at their convenience, as well as being invited to drop-in sessions to familiarise themselves with the setting.

“For most families this will be a beneficial move but that we recognise that some may find this disruptive or the location not so convenient. We apologise to any in the latter group and are supporting them with information to find alternative childcare.”

According to the NDNA, the City of Bristol funding rate of £5.69 per three and four year old child per hour has been unchanged since 2017 and is only going up by 1% to £5.80 from April 2023 – average rates are going up by 3.4%.

Jonathan Broadbery, NDNA’s Director of Policy said: “Childcare and early education is in desperate need of reform. Government investment in funded places does not cover childcare providers’ costs so many are struggling to remain sustainable, including those in Bristol where we have seen a number of closures.

“They must be funded to enable them to deliver high quality early education that makes such a difference to all children’s futures. Every nursery closure is devastating to children and their families, but also to staff and the local economy.

“The hourly funding rate in Bristol will only rise by 1% in April and has stayed at the same rate since 2017. The Prime Minister has said he has an ‘ambitious plan’ for early years but we are yet to see any sign of this.

“He must make good on this promise and deliver now for our youngest children, both in Bristol and across the country. Only sufficient investment in early education in line with other similar OECD countries will resolve the current crisis.”