The children’s nursery at Rothamsted is closing in December, announced the facility’s operators and owners last week.

  • 30
  • OCT
  • 2017

High energy and maintenance costs, punishing financial deficits and shrinking parental support have led to the closure of the children’s nursery at Rothamsted Research, which is used by staff and by other parents from outside the site. The decision, announced last week, becomes effective in late December.

Over the past two years, the number of children using Little Stars Nursery has reduced significantly.  Attempts to market places at the nursery in the local community have led to only a small number of enquiries. This low occupancy, along with several other considerations, has led to the difficult decision to close the nursery.

This decision was taken jointly by Bright Horizons, which manages the nursery, by Rothamsted Research, which provides the premises and subsidised places for its own staff, and by the Lawes Agricultural Trust, which owns the nursery building.

Bright Horizons’ Parent Carers Association, all parents of children at the nursery and staff working at the nursery were told of the decision on Thursday and Friday, 26 and 27 October. The announcement provided them with nearly two months’ notice; the contractual notice period is one month. The decision will take effect from 22 December 2017.

Rothamsted Research has worked hard to negotiate with Bright Horizons to mitigate the impact of the closure.

Bright Horizons has agreed to guarantee places for existing children at its Harpenden Day Nursery in Vaughan Road, Harpenden, which is about a mile from the current site. The company has also agreed to honour the discounted rates for existing children of Rothamsted Research staff. Furthermore, Bright Horizons has offered a discounted fee for two months for children of external clients to compensate for any disruption.

Since 2016, the Little Stars Nursery has been running at just over 50% occupancy. The nursery is run as a profit share between Rothamsted Research and Bright Horizons. It operated with a deficit last year and is expected to do the same this fiscal year.

The nursery building, erected towards the end of the last century, was of a temporary design with an expected life of 10 to 15 years. The most recent building survey identified costs of tens of thousands of pounds to meet modern standards. Because of the construction type, the building could not meet current building regulation requirements on energy efficiency. Energy running costs are high, and annual maintenance costs are around two and half times as high as those for other types of construction with the same floor area.

About Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
For more information, visit; Twitter @Rothamsted
1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes

About LAT
The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.