U-turn on Barra Children’s Centre

Pre-school education will remain in Barra Children’s Centre if a decision of the Comhairle’s Education and Children’s Services Committee stands at full council next week.

At the committee on Tuesday, councillors voted to retain the nursery in the Centre rather than move to Castlebay Community School.

The proposal had been the subject of several debates at the Comhairle over the past few months and this week an amendment put forward by SNP Councillor Bill Houston to keep the service where it it was carried in a vote of eight to seven.

The community have been campaigning strongly to keep the nursery in the Children’s Centre and are delighted this week that councillors have listened to their message.

A statement from the committee of Barra Children’s Centre said this week: “Barra Children’s Centre would like to thank councillors for listening to the families of Barra and Vatersay.  We hope that full council will follow the lead of the Education and Children’s Services Committee next week in voting to keep Castlebay Nursery in the best building for nursery provision on Barra.  A move to the Primary building would certainly not be in the best interests of our children and their education.”

They added: “Families in Barra are currently facing the loss of afternoon childcare provision at the nursery due to lack of viability and this will certainly create problems for working parents.  Barra Children’s Centre are well placed to access third sector funding to subsidise the service and have done so in the past, ensuring that families here have enjoyed levels of provision which are taken for granted elsewhere in the Western Isles.  Continuing flexible childcare is vital in our remote location.  This can be a reality if the Comhairle choose to continue to work in partnership with BCC to provide a progressive and pragmatic solution to the delivery pre-school services in the best accommodation for the purpose.”

Local councillor Donald Manford said: “I am delighted for the parents who worked tirelessly for retaining preschool in the current building. It must be remembered that the final dcision is taken next Thursday. I am very pleased how councillors listened to the arguments and were prepared to respect the wishes of the parents. It augurs well for the future of this Comhairle.”

Cllr Ronnie MacKinnon said “I hope the Council will vote to retain the children’s centre, our young people deserve the best start and I am convinced they receive this at the children’s centre.”

The community’s campaign to keep nursery in the Children’s Centre seems has also gleaned cross party support with Western Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil offering his support and also Labour’s Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant.

The final decision on this issue will be made at next Thursday’s full council.

Children at Barra Children’s Centre are pictured with the centre’s reclaimed 17’ boat, a recent donation from a dad at the nursery. The Children’s Centre are currently looking for funding to renovate the boat and site it in their grounds for imaginative play and story-time outside. Calmac have already kindly donated paint to finish the job.