A united campaign driven by parents has beaten off nursery closures in east London.
Tower Hamlets Council and mayor Lutfur Rahman last week abandoned plans to close four community nurseries.
These are the last public nurseries in the area, providing quality places mainly for children with disabilities.
Dionne Cayley is one of the young women who led the fight. “Lots of people wanted to get involved,” she said.
“We did street stalls and petitioned at markets, stations, outside our nurseries and at the town hall.
“We went to all the council meetings, and protested.
“Staff at the nurseries supported us when we started fighting. Managers tried to keep staff and parents apart, but the Unison union helped us all the way.”
The Save Our Nurseries tag was copied from the big local Save Our Surgeries fight to stop GP closures.
Campaigners contacted the nearby Focus E15 housing campaign for advice. “We were ready to occupy a nursery if it was closed,” said Dionne.
“Women have been pushed back. We need to come forward again and use our voice.” Nursery parents met regularly and overcame attempts to divide them with “compromises” to save one or two nurseries.
Parents spoke on the megaphone to explain the issues and build wide support.
“It was hard,” said Dionne. “None of us have done anything like it before. It felt like Tower Hamlets was punishing us for having disabled children.
“A lot of people told us we were not going to win and we should give up. But no matter what they threw at us, we kept going.”
Dionne’s son has health problems and disabilities, as do 97 percent of children in the four nurseries.
Parents know private nurseries do not match the skilled support of public services designed to meet the needs of their children.
Campaigners are proud of the victory. And they hope others can take heart from it.
Dionne said the campaign sent a clear message. “Don’t give up—anything is possible,” she said.
“Go to unions—they helped us. And go to the small political parties and communities. Don’t accept defeat. Don’t take no for an answer.”