LSESU is disappointed in LSE’s latest decision to close its nursery and instead enter into partnerships with three private nurseries. This is against the backdrop of a series of attempts by the School to close down the nursery in the last ten years. Due to the pandemic, increased home-working by staff has reduced the demand for nursery places, and the School have chosen to take the more affordable option of paying for a number of places in private nurseries instead of running an on-site nursery.
The School has been clear that the main reason for this decision is cost. Despite the gender equality concerns raised in LSESU’s consultation on the nursery, the School said that “affordability considerations as well as the demand for places” are the key considerations for LSE childcare. This falls short of LSE’s publicly stated commitment to gender equality, and the growing body of evidence that the pandemic has set women back. LSE’s nursery has been a fundamental part of LSE for nearly 50 years, and comments from staff and students in the consultation show that it is crucial for women to be able to continue working, especially for lone and low-income parents. In the words of a staff member in the Media and Communications department: ““Accessible childcare is, as LSE research has shown, the basic infrastructure for gender equality. For the LSE to remove this resource suggests that the School is totally divorced from the very principles that it claims to support.”
In addition, the SU has concerns about whether this private partnership will work for students. An LSE-run nursery operates in accordance with the academic year, and doesn’t require parents to pay for a full calendar year, which makes it more affordable for parents. Whereas staff are encouraged to continue home-working, students will still be on campus and will need facilities close to their studies. Affordability is a major concern, as private nurseries are often more expensive, and the additional 5% discount is unlikely to offset the additional costs of travel, paying for a calendar year, and application fees. For international students, who do not qualify for UK government support, this problem is compounded. Laura Goddard, SU Community and Welfare Officer said:
“The announcement from LSE’s Senior Management that the LSE Nursery’s reinstatement will not be considered until at least 2022 marks a truly sad day in LSE’s history. After 50 years of operation, the impact of its closure will fall hardest on the most vulnerable parents and carers in our community, particularly for international students and lone parents from low-income backgrounds.”
We will continue to fight for a commitment to reopen the LSE Nursery on campus. Until the School agrees to this, we cannot say we are part of an LSE that puts gender equality and social mobility above financial cost-saving.