After a public rally of more than 1,000 people in Salford in March and a meeting at the Palace of Westminster last month, campaigners including Salford Mayor Paul Dennett, Unison officer Ameen Hadi and staff and parents from the affected nurseries will use the meeting to call on the Government to take two steps to guarantee the future of the five settings:
- Support a reversal of changes to the Dedicated Schools Grant.
- As an immediate step, allow councils to access the £55m transitional funding that has been put in place to allow school-based nurseries to manage those changes.
Salford faces the closure of five nurseries, all rated Outstanding by Ofsted, in what the council says is a ‘direct result’ of government changes to the use of the Dedicated Schools Grant.
The council has said that while it pays £3m a year to run Little Hulton Day Nursery, Winton Day Nursery, Barton Moss Day Nursery, Belvedere Day Nursery and Higher Broughton Day Nursery, it only receives £1.5m in income from charges. More than 300 places and 100 jobs are set to be lost as a result of the closures.
The nurseries were originally faced with closure this August, but after a 300-strong public meeting and discussions with parents and unions, Mayor Dennett agreed to invest a further £1.5m to secure them until at least August 2019.
Campaigners have said they will require Government help to secure the nurseries beyond that date.
Salford City Unison branch secretary Steve North said, ‘This is a campaign that the people of Salford have rallied behind because they know how much it means to keep these nurseries open. Not just for the children and families who use them now, but for future generations.
‘The changes to Dedicated Schools Grant funding are impacting other parts of the country and we have launched a national petition to highlight this. We are hoping Mr Zahawi will listen to our representatives and will take steps to support councils who want to ensure outstanding early years provision.’
The meeting with Mr Zahawi was set up with the support of Salford MPs Rebecca Long-Bailey, Barbara Keeley and Graham Stringer.
Ms Long-Bailey, MP for Salford and Eccles, said, ‘I believe it is imperative to save these outstanding nurseries. The passion and dynamism of this campaign is a credit to those dedicated staff and parents who are fighting to keep them open.
‘I welcome discussion with the education minister regarding the Dedicated Schools Grant and along with staff, parents and the city mayor will be demanding that local authority day nurseries in Salford be made eligible for additional funding via the maintained nursery schools resource.’