Public meeting Friday the 14th of
October 2005 at 6pm In Keiss village hall
20 September 05
Keiss Nursery Action Group – Notice of Amended Meeting Time
Due to scheduling of events at the Keiss Village Hall, a new time
has been set for the public meeting on the future of Keiss Nursery.
The meeting will now take place on:
Wednesday, 12 October 2005 at
All are welcome. Please come and make your views on the future of our
16 September 05
Meetings - Building The Case - Public Meeting 14 October
Early in Term 1 of 2005, three local Keiss mothers met with Bill
Alexander, Head of Children, Young People and Families (Highland
Council), Cllr Margaret Davidson, Cllr John Green and Mr Graham Nichols,
Head of Education for Caithness. Also present was Lindsay Gunn of the
Social Work Department’s Wick office.
At the meeting, which took place at Keiss
Nursery, the following points were raised:
Nursery provision throughout the Highlands
is coming under review. At present, there are in the vicinity of 70 more
nurseries than primary school facilities in the Highland region. The
Highland Council’s view is that the current number is economically
The village of Keiss needs to prove
sustainability if the nursery facilities, attached to its school, are to
be retained. In essence, that means providing long-term figures that
support the need for a nursery in the village.
The need for after-school or wrap-around
care may provide an additional service that the nursery can provide,
thus supporting it’s long-term viability.
The mothers present raised the following
1. Keiss is situated some 7 to 8 miles from
the nearest nurseries in Canisbay and Wick (North School). The
round-trip of between 14 and 16 miles, twice a day, will bring economic
hardships on families in terms of fuel price and provision of transport,
along with practical difficulties in getting one child to a nursery in
Wick or Canisbay whilst delivering older siblings to Keiss Primary
School. Obviously, these practical issues will impact on decisions which
parents are forced to make in terms of where their children are
Whilst Cllr Davidson and Mr Alexander
agreed with the practical difficulties which may arise for families, it
was stressed that many other Highland families have to travel much
further and make such decisions.
We would argue that, whilst some Highland
families may be forced to travel long distances to get children to and
from nursery, we see no reason why a well-attended, fully-functioning
nursery in a growing community should be removed and parents be expected
to bear these travel and time costs. Keiss Nursery has been part of the
community for many years; the argument that others do without such a
facility does not automatically clear the way for our own nursery to be
We would also offer up the point that Keiss
Primary is a well-attended and fully-operational school. If the nursery
closes, this will have an impact on school attendance. There is no
justification for this situation to arise.
2. At Keiss Primary School, as at other
schools with nurseries attached, the nursery children are included in
transitional activities prior to moving into Primary 1 classes. This
reduces the stress and alienation that many children may feel when
moving into a larger school. Transitional activities also allow all the
children to become familiar with other students and staff.
Our belief is that such a nurturing,
beneficial system should provide a role-model for other communities,
rather than face the possibility of closure.
3. In respect to long-term viability, our
figures indicate that Keiss is a developing catchment, with a large
number of young children. Whilst nursery usage figures can only be
confirmed for the following 3 – 4 years, we have compiled the following
2005 / 2006 11 students
2006/2007 10 students
2007/2008 11 students
2008/20096 13 students
We feel that these figures amply support
our argument that Keiss Nursery should remain open.
Furthermore, it was indicated to the Keiss
Nursery Action Group that reasons for possible closure were based on
student numbers. A nursery with less than 10 students would be reviewed
in regard to long-term viability. If this is the case, then Keiss
Nursery’s projected student numbers show that this argument is not
relevant in our case.
We were also told that proposals for
closure were not being made on a financial basis. However, financial
considerations were raised at the meeting earlier this term.
Specifically, the issue of a large number of nurseries being opened some
years ago, leading to over-supply in some areas, was mentioned. We would
argue that in Keiss’s case, the provision of one nursery for a catchment
area stretching from Loch Wester, to Lyth and to Auckengill, is in no
way an “over-supply”.
We would ask that if nurseries are to be
closed on the basis of financial restructuring or cuts in education,
this is to be plainly stated to the parents and community members of
each affected community. Details of expenditure and funding allocation
should also be provided to back up such closures as are deemed
We believe that the future of Keiss Nursery
is in no way guaranteed. We also firmly believe that our nursery is
vital to our community’s future and that Keiss can sustain a nursery
well into the future.
A public meeting has been arranged for
Friday the 14th of October at 6pm. It will be held in the Keiss
village hall. Jamie Stone MSP has been asked to attend. along with local
Attendance by all interested parties is
welcomed. In the event of any change to the meeting date, details will
be posted on this web page and in the village.
2 June 05
Report And Latest Action From Helen Ellis For KNAG
On Monday, 30 May 2005, around 40 local parents from the communities of
Keiss and Thrumster gathered outside the Thurso Town Hall to convey a
message of support for their nurseries. Local councillors were given a
clear indication of community feeling, as protesters carried placards
and banners decrying the closure of the Keiss and Thrumster nurseries,
along with Dunnet Playgroup.
Councillor David Flear spoke to protesters
in the town hall and confirmed that, whilst a final decision on the
future of the nurseries had not been made, he and other local
councillors shared the view that nurseries needed to be kept open.
A meeting of the committee for children and
young people, which would be held in Inverness on Friday, 3 June 2005,
would examine the issue.
Councillor Flear indicated that people
could attend the meeting in Inverness and make submissions to Margaret
firstname.lastname@example.org . Councillor Flear stated
that, whilst many factors would be considered in relation to nursery
provision, community consultation is essential and that Caithness
councillors would be supporting the concerns of the protestors.
On Tuesday, 31 May 2005, around 50 adults
and as many children gathered in Wick’s Market Square and marched to
Rhind House, the Highland Council’s local education office.
Spokesperson Carrie-Anne Johnston was
allowed inside to speak with Graham Nichols, who confirmed that the
Highland Council had given an assurance, within the last hour, that the
Keiss and Thrumster nurseries would remain open for at least 12 months
and that any changes to nursery provision will be subject to a period of
Some of the outcomes of yesterday’s protest
included confirmation of the following points:
That the review into nursery
provision in Caithness was done in Inverness;
No representative or person involved in the
review came to assess Keiss Nursery in person. No visits were made in
order to speak to parents or observe the children in their learning
The issue is one of providing a “good
service”, rather than a financial one (ie does a smaller nursery fulfil
the educational needs of children); and
The review’s recommendations are still in
action and will still influence future decisions in regard to our
Whilst we are pleased that a period of
reprieve has been obtained for our nursery in Keiss, and that a period
of public consultation has been assured, the situation still needs close
and careful monitoring by parents and community members if we are to
keep Keiss Nursery open well into the future:
If the points of the review, chaired by
Bill Alexander of the Highland Council, are still active in forming
policies regarding our nursery school, then more direct examination of
these are needed. For example, if the Scottish Executive’s guidelines
are for class numbers of 10 or more children, exactly research (both
educational or otherwise) is this figure based on? Does that research
take into account individual communities and case-studies of villages
like Keiss or Thrumster?
A period of public consultation will
enable us to make comments on any proposals that affect the nursery, but
in turn this needs to be done as early as possible and as openly as
possible. Rather than being caught unawares as we were last week,
parents and community members need sufficient time to consider the
proposals, participate in discussions and ask relevant questions, prior
to writing submissions.
It is essential that individual situations
are assessed on an “as-needs” basis, so that guidelines are not rigidly
imposed upon communities without any consideration of the specific and
individual needs of that community.
It is proposed that a community-based group
in Keiss will be formed to monitor any developments in this matter.
I believe that we have given the Highland
Council a very strong indication of community opinion on nursery
closures. This issue has highlighted the intense desire of many people
to keep education accessible and localised and also illustrates how any
future attempts to downgrade or remove nursery facilities will be met by
the very people whom these decisions affect.
It should also be noted that the meeting in
Inverness on Friday, 3 June 2005 is a closed meeting and is not open to
the public. My suggestion is that people email or write to Margaret
email@example.com to make their
submissions prior to this date.
For any queries, please contact Helen Ellis
on 631 727 or email on
31 May 05
Jubilant - Full Consultation With Parents
Before Any Action
large group of parents , children and
supporters met in the Market Square in Wick
and march from the council offices to the
education offices in Rhind House today to
make there feelings known about any
possibility of closing nurseries in
Caithness. After a while an official
came out to announce that a decision had
been notified after local intervention that
no decisions would be taken without full
parent consultation which was unlikely to be
until well into next year. The Keiss
and Thrumster nurseries were specifically
mentioned (these being the ones principally
concerned as being on council premises) but
no others. A briefing meeting is to be
held in Inverness on Friday and is not open
to the public as had been previously
thought. The reason for this is that
this will be the first chance that
councillors have had to hear about the
30 May 05
Keiss Nursery Supporters Lobby Caithness
Area Councillors At Thurso Town Hall Meeting
Keiss Nursery supporters group comprising
parents, children and other people from the
local community turned out in numbers today
to lobby councillors and make sure they knew
how they felt about the need for a local
nursery in Keiss. Councillors met with
the group in the main hall at Thurso town
hall and heard convenor David Flear say that
nothing had been decided yet and that
councillors from all over Highland were to
attend briefing on Friday at the council
chambers in Inverness.
Next Stop Demo at Market Square, Wick
Tuesday, 31 May 2005 at 2.00pm outside
29 May 05
STATEMENT ON THE PROPOSED CLOSURE OF KEISS NURSERY
The parents and community of Keiss are determined to fight the
proposed closure of the Keiss Nursery by the Highland Council. We
believe that the nursery is a vital resource, providing excellent
education for our children and we simply CANNOT allow this to be taken
away from us.
The closure of the nursery will have many serious
implications for both our children and our village. Some of these
The children who attend the nursery participate in
transitional activities with Keiss Primary School prior to moving into
Year 1. If our children are forced to attend other nurseries, either in
Wick or Canisbay, this vital transitional stage will be missed and
children will be unable to become familiar with the primary school,
prior to the commencement of the school year. Every parent and teacher
is aware that ensuring a smooth transition between pre-school and
primary education is essential for the happiness and well being of
children. If Keiss Nursery closes, our children, to their disadvantage,
will miss this transitional stage.
Many children have siblings who attend Keiss Primary
School. It is impossible for parents to deliver their children to
separate schools, which may be 7 or 8 miles apart.
With the best will in the world, and despite an intense desire that our
children should be able to attend their local school, educating children
locally may become impossible to sustain. Attendance at Keiss Primary
School will, in all likelihood, start to decline.
We feel, however, that there is no reason for parents to be forced to
make this difficult choice. We have a wonderful, fully operational
nursery and excellent primary school in our village. We have a large
number of young children who are going to require nursery places in the
next few years and Keiss is attracting many young couples and families
into the area who, in all likelihood, will require these services.
We believe the nursery is sustainable and provides parents with the best
possible option of educating their children locally, in a familiar and
The journey to Wick (North School) is a total
round trip, from Keiss, of 15 miles. This would be done twice a day by
parents (in dropping off and picking up their children), resulting in 30
miles of travelling a day, 3 – 5 days per week. Canisbay is a round trip
of 17.5 miles, which results in 35 miles per day of travelling. The road
from Keiss to Canisbay is a one-lane road, which is difficult to travel
on in inclement weather conditions.
Many parents have expressed concerns over the inordinate amount of time
which they would have to spend in transporting their children to and
from nursery school, if their children had to either attend North School
or Canisbay. Some parents have had to concede that if Keiss Nursery
closes, they will be unable to make alternative travel arrangements for
their children and therefore these children will not be able to attend
Also factored into this is the additional expense for families in
transport costs. Most families with young children are conscious of
having to stay within strict budgets. Some families would be basically
unable to bear additional fuel costs, whilst others may have to make
sacrifices in other areas to accommodate these costs.
Some parents either lack transport or have only 1 car, which is often
not available for their use (ie. when their partner is working,
mechanical difficulties etc). The implications of Keiss Nursery closing
for these families is extremely serious and poses the possibility of
some children completely missing out on nursery school education.
The possibility of any child missing out on a nursery education due to
these reasons is in complete contradiction of government policies and
pledges to support and improve educational opportunities for our
Many families base their decision on where to live,
in part, due to the educational facilities on offer. If these facilities
are removed, new families may choose other villages or areas in
preference to Keiss, rather than face long commuting distances. Again,
this may have long-term repercussions on the community as well as
disadvantaging families who have already settled here.
An inability to attract new families to our area adds to the downward
spiral effect of school closures and removal of vital services from
Our children deserve far better. Nurseries across the Highlands form a
vital link in the educational chain and the targeting of them for
closure is unacceptable. The community of Keiss is undertaking the
following steps to help save their nursery:
Lobbying of local Councillors, our MSP Jamie Stone
and John Thurso MP.
A prominent signage campaign in the village,
targeting traffic moving between Wick and John O’Groats.
A petition, placed in the local village shop for
people to sign.
Jamie Stone MSP is to bring up questions in the
Scottish Executive’s question time, seeking the Executive’s stance on
the proposed closures.
Bringing the issue to the attention of the local
media, including the John O’Groat Journal and Grampian News. We are also
contacting the Scottish Herald to seek their support in covering the
story in their educational supplement.
Parents and other community members will be present
outside the Caithness Council meeting on Monday, 30 May at 10.00 am to
lobby councillors in person and highlight the closures.
A protest meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, 31 May
2005 at 2.00pm outside Highland Council offices in Market Square, Wick.
You can lend your support to our campaign. Please
write, telephone or email your local councillor and express your views
on the proposed closure of nursery facilities in the Caithness region.
We cannot afford to lose Keiss Nursery and we will
fight to ensure continuing access to nursery places for our children. It
may be a small nursery in a small village, but to our children it means
the whole world.
HMIe Report 1 September 2004