Parents concerned about Vogrie Outdoor Early Learning Centre

Thursday May 4th 2023

Vogrie Outdoor Early Learning Centre

Letter to the Editor from parents of children at the Vogrie Outdoor Early Learning Centre

Dear Editor,

We would like to pass on our concerns to you, as a group of parents of children at Vogrie Outdoor Early Learning Centre (ELC). The nursery is a unique and high-quality Midlothian Council outdoor nursery for children aged 3-5 years old. We have been informed that the two teachers who established this world leading site, and manage and teach in the setting, have had their posts reviewed and both will be removed, to be replaced with a (cheaper) Senior Years Practitioner as part of the council’s cost cutting measures, and leaving no teaching staff in the setting.

There has been no consultation with parents, and to date, no official communication to parents from Midlothian Council. As a group of parents we are extremely concerned that this will result in the children who attend Vogrie really suffering. The other staff who work in the setting (Early Years practitioners and Learning Assistants) are excellent, but the fact that Vogrie is not attached to a school means that it doesn’t benefit from a (geographically and professionally) close relationship with teachers, and the Vogrie staff have made full use of the highly-trained teachers there to develop not only Vogrie’s curricular vision, but also the transition support they provide for their primary-aged leavers.

In the few years that it has been active, Vogrie ELC has been flying the flag for Outdoor Learning, including being visited virtually by educators from around the world (Virtual visit to Vogrie Outdoor ELC by educators from across the world | Midlothian Council). Outdoor ELC settings are uncommon despite the benefit of outdoor education and time in nature being clearly evidenced and reported upon, and we were initially delighted that Midlothian Council had embraced an approach to the Early Years curriculum that is so clearly aligned with national priorities. Given all the research and how well the teachers have done to establish this service during a pandemic which only further outlined the need and benefit for amazing outdoor experiences for our young people, we had hoped that an expansion of the service to serve more and older pupils would have been more beneficial than pure cost cutting.

The decision to cut teaching staff therefore seems counterproductive to be removing the very staff that have made Vogrie what it is, proposing it’s idea to the heads of the council, building it from nothing in an unused walled garden space, and supporting it to develop. We are deeply concerned about the effect that the removal of the manager and another valued member of teaching staff will have on the children at the nursery and staff morale.

As a group of parents we have contacted Midlothian Council Executive Director for Children and Young People, Fiona Robertson, and have not had our concerns acknowledged. Not only is this insensitive to the needs of the children attending the setting, and the current anxiety experienced by the proposed change by us as parents, it is unacceptable to not have been more included in this decision from the outset through proper consultation.

We would very much appreciate your support in this matter,

Best wishes,

Emma Martindale, Lauren and Liam McMillan, Chloe and Erik Ravaglia, Sarah and John MacIssac, Kaley Northcott and Dave Law, Zsuzsa and Laszlo Remai, Freyja and Ross Howie, Jordann and Abbygail Wells, Sophie and Alistair Coats.

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