A COLLEGE struggling to provide space for its increasing number of students is set to close down a nursery, rated outstanding by Ofsted, to provide more teaching facilities.

South Essex College in Southend has started a formal consultation process with staff about the decision to close the Jungle Cats nursery, which has 58 children on its roll, on July 15 to enable more room for classes for the college’s burgeoning student population.

However, the shock move has left parents in the lurch as they need to find an alternative nursery for their children before Jungle Cats closes in five months time.

Jenny Mollica, who has two children at the Luker Road facility, said: “The main thing is that it is going to cause massive disruption to all the parents.

“We have got to find alternative childcare really quickly and we have an outstanding childcare provider that we are using that we are really happy with.

“They would be closing down an extraordinary resource for students and staff and losing a dedicated team of staff for a very small space.

“They are not really gaining much because it is a very small space. It is just the fact that it is very disruptive to our childcare and just the fact that it is an outstanding provision locally that is being closed down.”

Mrs Mollica, who lives in Southend, said the nursery staff had built up an excellent reputation locally with a team of dedicated passionate childcare workers, while providing childcare within a workplace was also considered impressive.

Wendy Barnes, vice principal for student support at the college, said: “It is with regret that the College began a formal consultation with staff on January 7 on the proposal that the Jungle Cats nursery be closed from July 15.

“Since the college first opened the Luker Road campus in Southend, the number of students enrolling on courses has grown significantly.

“We are now at the point that, despite moving some administrative functions and some provision to the college’s other two campuses, we have no further room for manoeuvre and need the space occupied by the nursery for teaching.

“The nursery was originally set up many years ago to provide nursery placements for the children of college students but over recent years the number of students requiring nursery placements has dwindled.”

A report from the nursery’s last inspection in 2010 praised the ‘very high quality care and learning’ provided by the staff which placed the children at the heart of everything that mattered.

The staff were described as well trained with a strong commitment to their professional development, while clear action plans were in place to enable staff to do the best job possible.

The nursery opens five days a week from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, all year round. The nursery play scheme operates during the school holidays.