STAFF at a York nursery feel “isolated and abandoned” in the wake of proposals to close it permanently following a little girl’s death, a union leader has claimed.

Melanie Onn, of UNISON, said she feared the nursery closure plan at York College was a “knee jerk reaction”, taken at the expense of staff and their careers working with children.

She said in a letter to college principal Alison Birkinshaw that she and UNISON had enormous empathy for the family of three-year-old Lydia Bishop, who died in September after being found on an outdoor slide with a rope around her neck.

However, she strongly believed it would be possible for the college to retain the facility, while handling the situation sensitively for her family.

“I am most concerned to ensure that the working livelihoods of 26 members of staff at York College Nursery are taken into full consideration and that they are not the unfortunate casualties of a hasty decision, viewed at a time of tragic circumstances,” she said.

She warned it was unlikely that staff would be unable to find work elsewhere because of the “stigma” attached to them because of the closure, and said staff had expressed disappointment at the perceived lack of face-to-face contact with them. “This has led to feelings of isolation and abandonment.”

A man told The Press that he and other parents of children at the nursery felt staff had been let down.

The college said it had responded in full to UNISON, saying: “The work of the nursery staff was highly valued both in the college and the wider community and the proposal to close the nursery will, in time, prove to be the right one and will remove any uncertainty for the staff, parents and children.

“The college is faced with an ongoing investigation by several agencies including the police, with a likely timescale of months and possibly years. There is no deadline by which the college can anticipate a defined outcome.

“It seemed only right, in light of the tragic circumstances leading to the initial closure, and in the best interests of all concerned, to propose to close the nursery permanently so that parents could make necessary, timely and alternative arrangements for the provision of nursery care for their children.”