Merton expands specialist education offering for vulnerable children

Merton Council is to provide new, good quality and sufficient accommodation for the growing number of vulnerable children in the borough receiving full-time education outside of the mainstream by repurposing council-owned facilities in Mitcham for Merton Medical Education Services (MMES). 

With increasing numbers of young people needing bespoke services, the specialist education provided by MMES, which forms part of Melbury College, is a vital part of the borough’s mental health support network.   

Having outgrown its previous permanent home at Canterbury Road, the service is temporarily based in Worsfold House, Mitcham, however this is unsuitable as a permanent base and the building is earmarked for affordable housing that will generate revenue allowing Merton to provide more services.    

After a search across the borough’s estate revealed no other feasible locations to resite MMES that wouldn’t require prohibitive costs or end up with pupils receiving a substandard and unequal offer, the Lavender Nursery on London Road, Mitcham, was identified as the only viable option.   

Lavender Nursery will thus move at the end of December and the relocated nursery will open in Lavender Steers Mead building in January. This building is just a five-minute walk away from the London Road site.  

Before taking this decision, the council actively engaged with parents through a public consultation in January and February this year and hosted a webinar meeting for affected parents and surveyed residents online in July.  

We appreciate the commitment of local residents to the Lavender London Road Nursery, and the disruption that re-locating the nursery will cause to some parents, but are pleased that by responding to their views and finding a local an alternative location, we have ensured that every child presently attending and on the waiting list can have a place in the re-located facility.  

Thanks to the growth in the early years provision over the past few years, there are sufficient places for childcare and early education in the area.  

All 80 sessional places that the council provides under the free childcare scheme for eligible two-year-olds  from low income families will be relocated to nearby Lavender Steers Mead, Acacia or Abbey Children’s Centres. Lavender Steers Mead will also provide 24 full-time day care places.  Full daycare places will be prioritised for children from working families on low incomes.      

In addition, services for families with children of all ages up to 18, including parenting programmes, a crèche and early learning together work will be provided from Bond Road. 

Councillor Eleanor Stringer, Cabinet Member for Children and Education, said: “Some of the most vulnerable and unwell children in the borough attend Merton Medical Education Service, and we should be doing all we can to support them. Sadly, demand in the borough is rising for this bespoke specialist education for pupils who are too ill to remain in mainstream school. 

“By moving Merton Medical Education Services to the London Road site, we are able to ensure every child who needs it can have a high-quality education from a building built to serve the most disadvantaged in our community. More than 60 children will be able to be provided for in the new facility.    

“The decision to move the Lavender Nursery is not an easy one and wasn’t taken lightly. It was only after we were certain we could relocate the nursery service, to a suitable nearby site, that we moved ahead with our plans.”