Nursery schools in Stoke-on-Trent face job losses

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Funding for places at nursery schools in Stoke-on-Trent will be cut in council plans to change the way early years provision is organised.

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Stoke-on-Trent City Council's is re-distributing nursery education funding from September 2014

Some headteachers and management staff in nursery schools could be made redundant as part of the re-organisation, which will be introduced in September 2014.

The city has six nursery schools, which currently receive funding for 25 hours a week for three-and four-year-olds, but the early years redesign will mean that all early years providers will be funded for the statutory minimum of 15 hours a week.

The council said that Stoke is one of only three local authority areas that provides the full-time provision in nursery schools.

Currently there are three different funding rates, with the rate per child per hour respectively £5.19 in nursery schools, £3.90 for private and voluntary providers, and £2.39 in nursery classes in primary schools.

Under the redesign from September 2014 nursery classes in schools and PVI providers will be paid a standard rate of £3.70 an hour per child to provide 15 hours a week of funded early education.

Some nursery classes will continue to offer 25 hours a week, while others will provide 15 hours and use any extra funding to provide support to children and families in the home.

However, to help support the transition for nursery schools to the new rate, their funding will remain at £5.19 for an extra year and then be cut in line with other providers to £3.70 an hour from September 2015.

The council says that under the plans any funding not used by providers to fund the 15 hours can be used to provide extra support to vulnerable children and their families.

The leadership and governance at each nursery school will be revised.

A council report on the redesign strategy explains that, ‘In reality nursery schools will now be jointly managed by governors and school headteachers or by linking up with a local children’s centres.’

The specific details for each nursery school are being finalised.

It goes on to say, ‘For the majority of nursery education providers the revised strategy maintains their existing levels of council support. For the largest provider of nursery education, nursery classes in primary schools, it improves their support. However, for nursery schools implementation has a significant impact. The nursery schools under their current governance and leadership arrangements will be unviable. Their provision of nursery places for children will be maintained but there will be a need to rationalize leadership and management that might result in staff redundancy.’

The council said the savings would be worth £1.22m in the year from September 2014 - September 2015.

Commenting on the plans, councillor Shaun Pender, the city council’s cabinet member for education, said the city’s six nursery schools would need to look at making changes to their leadership and management structures in order to reduce costs and maintain the provision of nursery places.

‘Our revised nursery provision strategy is about improving nursery education provision for the most vulnerable children in our city and ensuring that precious resources are targeted at those in greatest need of support,’ he said.

‘This is not about making a saving for the city council, as overall nursery provision funding will not decrease, nor is it about diverting money to fund more nursery provision for two-year-olds, as we already have a separate funding stream for that.’

He said that in future funding for nursery provision would be distributed differently to deliver better, more effective nursery provision targeting the greatest need.

‘We will provide 15 hours of statutory support each week, and we are asking nursery providers to consider how best to use this funding to cater for those children with the greatest need,’ Mr Pender added.