Lucy Powell chosen as chair of parliamentary group on nursery schools

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Following the promotion of Graham Stuart as a government whip, the former shadow education secretary, Lucy Powell is the new Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Nursery Schools and Nursery Classes.

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Lucy Powell

The Labour MP is an advocate for better childcare and the protection of public services, has warned that the real engines of social mobility face extinction as up to 100 nursery Schools risk closure due to funding changes.

Under the proposed changes to funding allocation, the Government will remove the ability of local authorities to give supplementary funding for high quality provision.

Nursery school campaigners say that this fails to take into account the highly specialised role nursery schools play in tackling disadvantage and narrowing the attainment and development gap.

In September, Nursery World reported that analysis by the school leader’s union (NAHT) indicates that under the proposed changes, local authorities with the highest number of maintained nursery schools will see enormous decreases in funding, resulting in multiple closures.

Experts at Pen Green Centre for Children and their Families, the secretariat for the APPG for Nursery Schools, estimate that one in four nursery schools that have responded to a call for evidence on the impact of early years funding changes on their budgets.

There are 400 nursery schools across England, all of which are performing highly – 99 per cent are rated outstanding or good by Ofsted.

Sixty-five per-cent of nursery school places are located in the 30 per-cent most deprived parts of England, serving some of the most vulnerable children and families.

Commenting at her inaugural meeting as chair, Ms Powell said, ‘Nursery schools are critical engines of social mobility narrowing the gap the most for disadvantaged children and their peers. Yet nursery schools could become extinct due to proposed funding changes by education ministers.

'Ministers are levelling down the funding system for the early years to pay for their 30-hour childcare offer which threatens the future viability of these exceptional institutions doing so much to defeat disadvantage and improve social mobility.'

The Department for Education has said that it is investing a record £6 billion per year on childcare by the end of this Parliament, including £300 million per year to raise the hourly funding rate for nurseries, playgroups and childminders.

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