PRIVATE operators have not come forward to take over all the closure-threatened pre-schools, Education Minister Peter Karran admitted.
He told the House of Keys that while 16 expressions of interest had been received, there had been no bids so far for the nurseries at Jurby and Bride.
Mr Karran said the 16 expressions of interest would be discussed at a meeting of the Council of Ministers working party on pre-school education which had been called this week to discuss the 16 expressions of interest.
He explained of those 16, some referred to single sites, while other bids were for one lot of provision but offering a number of alternative sites and others again were for multi-provisions at a range of locations. The Minister confirmed that Victoria Road had four bids, Ballasalla three, Ballacottier six, Manor Park one bid, Ashley Hill has eight, Cronk-y-Berry has six, Willaston also has six, St John’s has one bid; Peel Clothworkers’ has five, Auldyn Infants has one but no bids had been received for either Jurby or Bride.
He said there was another interested party, who has been off the island, who wanted to apply for one of the locations.
Graham Cregeen (Malew and Santon) said the fact that private operators had not shown an interest in all the sites, showed that the ‘postcode lottery has come back in’.
Alfred Cannan (Michael) asked: ‘Can I ask the Minister what he intends to do about Jurby having no bids? Will he assure me that he will be looking at this matter very, very seriously? There are a lot of poor families out there who need this kind of care.’
Mr Karran said: ‘I think at the moment that the working party will be looking at alternatives. Bride is also in the same boat. I think it would be wrong of us to get into the detail before it has been discussed.
‘We actually have been looking at this issue. I believe that the figures are on average about six that actually turn up to the nursery at Jurby at the present time.
‘I have to say, the fact [is] we have already looked at other ideas as far as Jurby is concerned. It always has been a concern.
‘We have been able to get people to go and bus in to the likes of Manor Park in the past and in all these areas where you think it would be a priority. But Jurby, we just cannot get people. People are not interested in being bussed in to that area.’
Mr Karran said his department had been discussing the issue of the Jurby pre-school with other parties but added that making that information open in the Keys would ‘almost certainly’ undermine the department’s position.
State-run pre-school provision will end in September after the Department of Education pulled the plug on funding. A replacement voucher scheme will see parents receiving £350 towards the cost of private nursery care, with a highe rate for families with children in receipt of free school meals.. Mr Karran admitted in Tynwald he can’t guarantee funding to continue the voucher scheme in future.