Call for 'urgent' funding for maintained nursery schools

Catherine Gaunt
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Early education experts and teaching unions have written a joint letter to the prime minister with an urgent request for extra immediate and long-term funding for maintained nursery schools.

Along with private and voluntary sector early years settings, maintained nursery schools have been left out of the Government’s recently announced ‘catch-up’ funding for schools.

The leaders of Early Education, the National Education Union and school leaders’ union NAHT said that maintained nursery schools have provided a crucial service throughout the Covid-19 crisis and made sure that many of the most vulnerable young children have received continued high-quality care, support and education.

The letter to Boris Johnson says, ‘We oppose the closure of any of the remaining 389 schools in England and ask that you take a long-term view to ensure we do not lose any more of our indispensable maintained nursery schools, which help and support some of the most deprived families in the country.'

Despite a short-term funding announcement to extend supplementary funding for maintained nursery schools to cover the 2020-21 financial year, a long-term funding solution for maintained nursery schools in the early years funding system implemented in 2017 'has still not been honoured', they say, with no long-term agreement in sight.

This situation has left many maintained nursery schools in ‘a perilous position’, with many fearing for their survival, the unions said.

The challenges already facing maintained nursery schools have been exacerbated by the news that, unlike other schools, they are not able to access the Government’s financial compensation scheme,

The joint letter calls for three immediate actions from the Government:

  • Immediately confirming supplementary funding for 2021-22 (and especially summer term 2021) and ensure this funding is increased in line with inflation to bring the value back to the real terms value in 2016-17
  • Providing additional resources and support with COVID-19 costs
  • Committing to review the early years funding formula as soon as possible and by 2021 at the latest.  

Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of Early Education, said, ‘During the Covid-19 crisis most maintained nursery schools have stayed open or worked together as hubs, and many took in children from local private and voluntary settings which had closed, as well as staying open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers, supporting home learning and providing help for families with food and resources. 

‘They are vital community institutions, but we lose more of them every year due to inadequate funding, and now only 389 remain in England. 

‘The additional financial pressures of Covid-19 combined with Government’s delay in providing a review of their funding, put many of these schools at risk of closure. Government needs to act urgently to put these beacons of excellence in the early years on a sound financial footing so that they can continue their work in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country. Right now, more children than ever have need of the very best start in life which maintained nursery schools are so skilled at providing.’

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said, ‘Nursery school leaders have been working tirelessly during lockdown, to provide essential support for families in some of the most deprived areas of the UK.

‘Last week we also discovered that Maintained Nursery Schools, along with the rest of the early years sector had been excluded from the Government’s £1billion "catch-up" funding. This decision seems illogical given that it is widely accepted that early intervention is one of the most effective strategies to address gaps in learning. We can be confident that children will be returning to early years settings now and in September needing extra support as a result of their experiences during the current crisis.' 

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said, ‘It is clear that the early years funding formula is in urgent need of review. Maintained nursery schools are critical for our youngest children, now more than ever, but the Government has routinely displayed its indifference towards that vital work. We cannot afford for this to continue, and that is why we are today asking for an urgent, immediate and long-term financial solution.’

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