‘Hands off our nurseries’: Parents kick off new battle against council plans to close children’s centres

Families protest outside Sebright children’s centre. Photograph: courtesy Matt Gill

Parents are once again fighting to save children’s centres from closure after Hackney Council revealed fresh plans to swing the axe.

If the proposals go ahead, Fernbank and Sebright centres could shut by August 2025 as part of a restructuring of nursery provision for children aged between six months and five years.

Fernbank and Sebright have until autumn this year to find new management if they are to continue running.

Hillside and Oldhill Children’s Centres are also affected by the changes.

Concerned parents and children gathered outside Sebright in Haggerston on Monday to stand up against the council’s “short-sighted” decision, with colourful signs telling politicians, ‘Hands off our nursery’.

Parent and spokesperson for the Save Sebright campaign, Yulisa Keselman, said: “This news has come completely out of the blue for both staff and parents. We’re shocked at the speed with which the consultation has come and the injustice of it all.

“We wholeheartedly oppose this and will do everything to fight the decision to close our beloved nursery and children’s centre, which is at the heart of our community.

“These short-sighted decisions have a lasting impact on future generations.”

Children help to prepare protest signs. Photograph: courtesy Matt Gill

Mayor of Hackney Caroline Woodley said rising childcare delivery costs, the challenges of finding staff, and the council’s struggle with “insufficient” government funding continue to threaten early years childcare provision.

The proposal aims to find savings amid a £1.07m budget deficit, which the Town Hall says is a result of a drop in nursery fees and higher operational costs.

It is part of a wider effort from the council to save £4m across its early years service within the next three years.

Fernbank and Hillside centres were under threat of closure in 2021, prompting a successful pushback from the parents.

Natalie Aguilera, a parent with a child at Fernbank, said they were “devastated” at having to again fight to retain the services, which are a “lifeline” for many low-income families.

“Parents and carers are angry and emotional about staff redundancies, and deeply anxious about the impact on their children, as well as the enormous difficulty of finding affordable childcare elsewhere,” she said.

Hackney Unison’s joint branch secretary Matt Paul said that, although the council has difficult decisions to make under “Tory-driven” austerity and a lack of funding from the government, key services for children should be protected.

Here is a recap of the proposed changes affecting four children’s centres across Hackney and how to have your say in the plans.


  • Alternative providers are invited to take over management, but if none is found by Autumn 2024, the centre will close by August 2025


  • Alternative providers are invited to take over management, but if none is found by Autumn 2024, the centre will close by August 2025


  • Proposal to turn Hillside into a specialist nursery with term-time education and care for children aged two to five years with special educational needs or a disability (SEND)


  • Plan to phase out places for four-year-olds to provide nursery places for children aged six months to up to three-years-old

The consultation is now open until 24 April 2024, and can be found at consultation.hackney.gov.uk/children-education/childrens-centres-consultation/.

Parents and carers can also attend consultation meetings at each children’s centre and online across February and March.