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St Michael's Nurseries, Clapton - child excluded with no warning or explanation - Advice please

(11 Posts)
arcola Mon 10-Jun-19 22:54:33

We've had a very upsetting experience with our nursery in Clapton. We've been there for 4 months, since moving to the area. It started way back before we started, but my husband persuaded me that they were still our best bet. To cut a long story short, the managers have always acted strangely and do not communicate well with parents, which is problematic. At the outset they refused to give us anything in writing - no terms and conditions, policies, information about the day for the kids / menus etc. My husband thought we should give them benefit of the doubt. 4 months in, we don't even know if our daughter has a key worker. But they seem to respond to queries and comments by trying to make you feel guilty for asking, then 'politely' (?) suggesting that you can always go somewhere else if you want. There is an atmosphere of having to walk on eggshells. As a consequence we have pretty much kept ourselves to ourselves thinking that as long as dd is happy surely thats the most important thing right? and our dd finally started settling in after 3 months.

THEN... I can't say I was enthralled by the place, but suddenly they sent an email with a spreadsheet attached, indicating a new fee scale. There was a hike of 23% - but only for 5day a week places, not so much for others. No explanation... There was 2 weeks notice for uplifted payments, as they told us halfway through the month and payment is due in advance for the next month...

So we emailed to ask 1. is it a mistake? and 2. if not, can you possibly explain what the fee rise represents? The nursery sent a formal response declining to answer any questions. Now, this seemed pretty weird. Our last amazing nursery (Minihome in stoke newington that was just too far away when we moved) had a minor fee rise, gave us 2 months notice and explained it all in detail, which was fine. And we could probably stomach the actual amount St Michaels wanted to charge as their fees had been relatively low, but it was the way they were going about it that seemed really odd, and the fact they don't behave like the nurseries that charge more (which are just a lot more professional and have better facilities).

So I wrote back explaining that I'd need to earn an extra £4k per year before tax to cover this fee rise, and asking, why so sudden, was it planned etc? should we expect some changes to the nursery? and suggesting that they could take a more consultative approach, possibly spread out the fee rise over a longer period. It was terse, but professional and registering clear, specific issues, with clear questions.

BOOM. We then received an email from the managers saying they didn't like the tone of the email and that they were terminating our daughter's place.
Just like that. Nothing specific. No warning. No reference to terms / conditions/ complaints policies (because they don't have or don't issue them).
My husband went in to talk to them to try to understand what their issue really was... luckily he is very diplomatic. But he came away none the wiser, other than that there was something deeply irrational going on.
Then I wrote an explanation to them, and apologised if we'd upset them. At the same time we pleaded with them that even though we don't understand why, we'd leave - but our number 1 concern is to cause minimal disruption to dd. So we asked if she could stay at least until we find a stable alternative (which is not easy for a full time situation London). She's just settled from a different nursery, and made her first friends so we really don't want to have to mess her around.

But still. No budging. It makes no sense. It almost feels as if we have tapped into some past trauma and they are projecting it all onto us -because there is no explanation.

Does anyone have any ideas? There appears to be no complaints policy and there were no t+cs / no contract.

Final insult to injury is that the one thing they did tell us at the outset was it was a 1 month notice period for any changes, and they have given us just less than 4 weeks from their first email. We are stuck and are going to have to call in favours/ take time off work/ cobble something together which is a complete nightmare, and dd will be completely confused.

Any advice or previous experiences gratefully received. It seems completely wrong but as a private nursery, they don't seem to feel accountable.

OP’s posts: |
Mysterian Tue 11-Jun-19 21:13:08

Report all this to ofsted. Pass on all communication you've had with them. Suddenly asking you to leave is not good for your child, so they'll need a damn good reason or they'll be in trouble.

Doesn't sound like they are doing ok financially either.

arcola Tue 11-Jun-19 22:47:38

Thanks. That is what I thought about the financial stability too. I queried this in my email to them, and it might have been one of the triggers that upset them. Ofsted are definitely going to want to know. But I'm guessing that there is nothing in practice that will actually get them to change their minds so that we don't have to mess our daughter around all Summer with different childminders. I don't want to stay there for a minute longer, but I wanted to find a stable alternative first.

OP’s posts: |
AbbyHammond Mon 17-Jun-19 20:08:19

Why on earth would you want to leave your child in a shoddy nursery with no terms & conditions or policies?

Eastie77 Mon 17-Jun-19 20:20:51

I'm sorry I don't have practical advice regarding your situation. I just thought I'd mention I'm from Hackney and I know there are a lot of parents on this site who live in and around Clapton as your OP is quite identifying (you might want to suggest a title edit and remove the name of the nursery). I'm only flagging as I know DS' old nursery teacher is on MN!

TwoPonyTony Mon 17-Jun-19 20:26:54

That's bonkers. Keep all correspondence and report to Ofsted. Next time don't stick your poor kid in cowboy nursery. You trusted your child to people who wouldn't answer honest questions with no policies in place. Your head needs a wobble.

HappydaysArehere Mon 17-Jun-19 20:49:29

What about other parents. Have you asked them about the short notice etc? What about the nursery teachers? Is there a happy atmosphere? Certainly report concerns to Ofsted.

JaneO1297 Fri 21-Jun-19 20:15:23

Don't report to that to Ofsted. Your concern is contractual which is out of their remit. The only breach of requirements you have mentioned is the lack of complaints policy and that isn't a safeguarding concern, Ofsted would write to the provider to say they've received a concern that they don't have a complaints procedure and then have a look at their inspection.

JaneO1297 Fri 21-Jun-19 20:16:26

To make a complaint to the setting, you'll need to put it in writing and then they have 28 days to provide you with an outcome.

arcola Fri 21-Jun-19 21:43:03

@JaneO1297 I know its contractual - which makes it tricky, and they have been reported to Trading Standards in that regard. Citizens Advice have said it's breach of contract (made worse by the fact they issued no terms). But as I understand it, and as the super helpful people at the council explained to me - Ofsted are interested in the partnership between nursery and parents and since the communications at this place are generally so dire (and we have ample evidence), that has a negative impact on child's holistic setting. Not a single written piece of information about activity or progress was given in 5 months, and even getting verbal feedback about the day from staff was like pulling teeth sometimes. Not a single text or email or phone call.
@AbbyHammond and @TwoPonyPony answer is its just really hard to find full time nursery places and an incredible juggle for full-time working families. BUT -we have been very lucky and are very grateful to have found another fantastic childcare setting (with the help of the early years people at the council in fact) at the last minute, and it is amazing to be back in a place that is relaxed, inclusive and welcoming - even though the change is unsettling for our daughter they are very loving and I think she will be happy.

OP’s posts: |
JaneO1297 Fri 21-Jun-19 22:02:28

Sorry just re-read your post and I think I missed the first bit where you mentioned the communication issues. If you have concerns about poor communication between the setting and you as parents, and the lack of information provided to you about your little ones progress then you could raise that with Ofsted. They aren't likely to take any action, like I said up there, they will most likely write the provider a letter.

That being said, it is worth contacting Ofsted (but probably don't start the conversation (if you're calling) by mentioning that they terminated your contract) because it helps them to determine whether there may or may not be a pattern emerging with regards to these issues. So although it's not an immediate safeguarding issue, if it is a concern that is being raised by multiple parents over a period of time then it indicates that the setting isn't taking action to resolve the issues that Ofsted wrote to them about.

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