On 8 June 2010 Goldsmiths College notified the students' union of their intention to close the College nursery as a matter of urgency over the summer holiday period. The closure would take place within three months and result in staff redundancies and the loss of a service, which provided places for 30 children of students and staff. It seemed clear the College were determined to act swiftly and take advantage of the fact the campus was quiet.
The Exec decided this needed to be a campaigning priority. Weekly campaign meetings were organised with the involvement of UCU, Unison, student and staff parents and student and staff activists. The regular meetings ensured that the campaign was able to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of activity, identify new opportunities and revise their action plan as the campaign progressed. A blog was set up and regularly updated, as well as periodic press releases and communication to campaign supporters. The students' union also managed to engage College alumni that had previously used the nursery.
The campaign targeted several meetings of the senior management and organised protests to coincide with them. Outside a meeting of the College Council, the students' union put on a carnival to raise the issue with the governing body of the College. Families turned up from the local community to show their support, along with local press, resulting in questions being raised in the meeting about the closure of the Nursery.
The campaign garnered support from other organisations and individuals; Joan Ruddock MP, Simon Hughes MP and Aaron Porter were three of many who wrote personally to the senior management to urge them to reconsider their decision. After threats of boycotts and further stunts, senior management requested to meet with us and discuss what the issues were.
This led to the College SMT agreeing to keep the nursery open for a year to allow a working party (with SU representation) to review the future of childcare support at the institution. This was agreed on 26 August, this was a huge climb-down, which seemed almost impossible just weeks earlier. The SU used the last year to build pressure (questions at open meeting) and research the possibilities of the SU running the nursery; a proposal was put forward and has been initially accepted by the SMT.
James Haywood (Campaigns Officer & President-elect) said, "We're all delighted with the outcome as this was a priority campaign for us this year. While it was very much a team effort we wouldn't have achieved our goal without the leadership and hard work of Bindz Patel, this year's GSU President."
Hopefully this will encourage other unions fighting nursery closures that these these campaigns are winnable, if you plan and organise appropriately and work together with a broad range of people that have an interest in winning the campaign too.