Parents of Glebe’s KU Laurel Tree House Childcare Centre have grown disappointed with management abandoning pleas to save the facility.
In a letter released to Laurel Tree House families in June, KU’s Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer announced that they would not be continuing operations at 61 Arundel Street.
“Having conducted a comprehensive review of the information and the options we have been unable to find a scenario where KU could continue operating the centre in a sustainable way into the future,” the letter unveiled.
“Sadly, this means that we are confirming that KU Laurel Tree House will be closing at the end of the year.”
It was reported earlier in the year that the NSW Land and Housing Corporation had approved plans to sell the land currently occupied by KU Laurel Tree House, with proceeds from the sale to be reinvested into new social housing facilities throughout the state.
City Hub understands that the Land and Housing Corporation offered KU an opportunity to purchase the land on favourable terms prior to auction – an offer that has since been declined.
Laurel Tree House parent Shannon Harvey felt deserted by the decision.
“We feel completely let down by KU,” Harvey told City Hub.
“[KU] has a beautiful centre with an incredible reputation and a wonderful staff team, and they can’t be bothered to fight for it.
“As parents, we trusted that because KU is a not-for-profit, it would put kids before its bank balance. We could not have been more wrong.”
Harvey worries that KU’s decision to close operations in Glebe sets a dangerous precedent for childcare centres throughout the inner-city.
“Space is at a premium, which means that many centres are small, and there is very little available land to build new centres,” Harvey said.
“If the funding model for early childhood education, which is centred around the Federal Government’s Child Care Subsidy, isn’t viable for a not-for-profit to run a small centre, then it certainly isn’t viable for a for-profit.
Childcare in Demand
The 2019 City of Sydney’s Child Care Needs Analysis recognised the demand for increased, high-quality affordable childcare and education centres, especially considering the growing inner-city population growth expected in the next two decades.
The report predicts that the Glebe Point Road Village Area encompassing Arundel Street will undergo a 6.3 per cent population increase by 2036 – a population growth requiring further high-quality affordable childcare and education centres.
Parents of the childcare centre have been forced to find new schools for their children in 2022. Photo: Supplied.
In a June City of Sydney Council meeting, City of Sydney Councillor Linda Scott tabled a motion conveying her support of the Glebe community’s fight to save Laurel Tree House.
In the meeting, Council noted that the City of Sydney needs and supports quality and affordable childcare services for the community, as well as acknowledging the adoration the centre holds within the inner-city.
City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has remained a devout supporter of Laurel Tree House.
“The Lord Mayor has requested the Ministers [for Education and Water, Property and Housing] urgently investigate the retention of the property as a childcare centre and consult with the community to determine the level of support for the service at a local level,” a City of Sydney spokesperson told City Hub in May.
While KU has offered parents priority access to their other centres for the now-displaced Laurel Tree House children and their waitlisted siblings, Harvey believes it isn’t enough.
“We’re concerned about our own children, who have already faced so much uncertainty in the pandemic,” Harvey said.
“KU hasn’t even been able to guarantee us places at its own childcare centres nearby. We are all on waitlists, hoping that we will have care come January.
“Our kids have such beautiful relationships with their educators and friends and obviously don’t want to have to go somewhere else. We’re trying to protect them as much as we can.”
Over its 35 years of existence, a strong community has formed at KU Laurel Tree House. Photo: Supplied.
KU has confirmed that all Laurel Tree House staff who wish to continue their careers with their employer will be offered alternative positions once the Glebe facility conducts its planned closure at the end of the year.
Harvey expressed her community’s dejection for the Laurel Tree House workers.
“As parents, we are just so sad for the staff. They’re a long-serving team that have built up a service that has an outstanding reputation.
“It’s devastating to see their talent and investment in this service be broken up, especially when they have put so much on the line supporting us all through the pandemic.”
Laurel Tree House has operated its childcare centre on Arundel Street for over 35 years and has educated over 1500 children since its opening.
KU Childcare has welcomed over 12,000 children and has employed over 2,000 staff members across its history.
Redeveloping social housing has been a high priority for the Land and Housing Corporation in the past 18 months, with five major projects in the City of Sydney alone – including two in Glebe – announced as part of the NSW Government’s Future Directions for Social Housing.
In the inner-city, expected waiting times for general applicants of social housing currently stands at 5-10 years for most properties.
KU will hold a special farewell function later in the year, where the Laurel Tree House community will be allowed to make their last goodbyes to their educators and families.