MPs put pressure on Government to protect nursery schools

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A cross-party group of MPs is calling on the Government to safeguard the future of maintained nursery schools.

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Lucy Powell, chair of the APPG on nursery schools and nursery classes

Twenty- two MPs have written to the early years minister to air their concerns about the impact of changes to the early years funding formula on maintained nursery schools and nursery classes.

Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs have called for support to ensure the sustainability of maintained nursery schools, ahead of tomorrow’s Autumn Statement and the Government’s response to the funding consultation.

Under the current proposals, local authorities will be unable to allocate extra funding to support quality in local providers and nursery schools.

The letter has been co-ordinated by Lucy Powell, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Nursery Schools and Nursery Classes, and has been signed by MPs with the highest concentration of nursery schools in their constituencies.

Around 400 nursery schools remain in England, with around two-thirds in the 30 per cent most deprived areas, and they are overwhelmingly rated good or outstanding by Ofsted.

MPs say that while they support the Government’s plans to reform early years funding and create a fairer funding formula, they are ‘concerned about the unintended consequences of the proposals set out in the consultation to prohibit local authorities from allocating supplementary quality funding as they choose.’

Nursery schools have higher staff costs than other providers, the letter says, because they employ a head teacher and other qualified teachers.

While the letter acknowledges the Department for Education has promised £55 million a year for the next two years to protect nursery schools, it adds, ‘However, beyond two years the future of nursery schools is unclear and many nursery schools are concerned about their future viability.

‘It would be a travesty, as well as terrible for quality early education and care, if nursery schools were to close. We know first-hand the value that nursery schools offer local parents in our constituencies as well as other local providers and local authorities as vehicles for driving up quality and closing the attainment gap.’

Ms Powell said, ‘MPs on all sides are coming together to shout from the rooftops about the fantastic record of maintained nursery schools in reducing disadvantage and tackling the developmental gap between poorer children and their peers.

‘Nursery schools are the premier engine of social mobility, as recognised by Ofsted and the Social Mobility Commission in their annual report just this week. It’s clear that ministers are under mounting pressure to act from MPs across the political divide and in the Autumn Statement they need set out how they will safeguard the future viability of maintained nursery schools.’

Meanwhile, the Save State Nursery Schools online petition, started by a Cambridgeshire nursery school teacher on 3 November, has attracted more than 16,500 signatories.

It calls for a Government rethink on the funding proposals and for nursery schools to be funded appropriately.

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