Council bosses back plans to merge nursery with academy in Sunderland

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A Sunderland nursery is set to merge with an academy under new plans backed by council bosses.

Sunderland City Council’s cabinet agreed to start the legal process to “discontinue” Pennywell Early Years Centre.

This forms part of wider plans to amalgamate the nursery with Academy 360 which is run by the Laidlaw Academy Trust.

Both education hubs are located off Portsmouth Road with the 2-5 nursery rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

In future years however, it is projected to fall into financial difficulties with a deficit by 2021/22.

According to cabinet papers, both parties approached the council with a view to merging from January 1, 2020.

And cabinet member for Children, Learning and Skills on the council, Coun Louise Farthing, said nursery leaders gave “deep consideration” to the merger plans.

“The chair of the governing body came to see me to say she was in a real dilemma about it,” she told the meeting at Sunderland Civic Centre.

“My advice to her was to make the decision that she felt would make the nursery viable for future years.

“I really do think that is the decision that has been made.”

Cabinet member for Environment and Transport, Coun Amy Wilson, added: “I think most of the residents that live in and around Academy 360 think (the merger) is already the case.

“I think children start at the nursery and stay in the same school all the way through, I don’t think members of the public will even realise this is taking place.”

As part of the changes, Laidlaw Academy 360 would reduce its lower age range and take in pupils aged 2-16, subject to approval from the Department for Education.

Laidlaw Academy Trust and the nursery have said there will be no change to current staffing, organisation or delivery if the merger goes ahead.

Following the council decision, a four-week consultation will take place around the planned merger between Wednesday, July 3 and Wednesday, July 31.

Council bosses are set to make a final decision on the proposals no later than September 30.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service