Tory MPs voice concerns about nursery school funding

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Conservative MPs are increasingly concerned about the survival of maintained nursery schools and the impact for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

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A survey by Early Education released tomorrow at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Nursery Schools has found that the majority of maintained nursery schools expect to run deficit budgets next year.

Maintained nursery schools were granted £60m a year in extra funding last year but this is due to end in 2020.

Tory MP for North Warwickshire and Bedworth, Craig Tracey, and Gillian Keegan for Chichester, have raised the issue with ministers.

Amanda King, executive headteacher of two maintained nursery schools in Warwickshire, told the Radio 4 Today programme that without supplementary funding the nursery schools could not survive financially.

Ms King said, ‘At the end of the day if the schools close and the places aren’t there it’s hard not to feel that you’ve failed.’

Local MP Craig Tracey told the programme that Ms King’s nursery schools were due to take seven more children with additional needs next year.

‘What we don’t know is what will happen with those children with special educational needs because there’s no compulsion for any of the private sector nurseries to give that care,’ he said.

Chair of the education select committee Robert Halfon said, ‘If the bean counters at the Treasury are looking at this they need to look at it in terms of cost benefit because if they don’t invest in maintained nurseries now it will store up huge problems later on.’

MP Gillian Keegan said that nursery schools were ‘a very precious resource, which we ought to nurture and not leave in this kind of insecure state. 2020 is only 18 months away. You need to start planning. If you’re not going to have a job in 18 months what are you going to do instead?’

Another nursery school head Carole Jacques, head of Earlham Early Years Nursery School in Norwich, said that she had had to make savings of £40,000 in funding in October in addition to savings of £60,000. The nursery school had asked local companies for donations, including wallpaper from printing companies for children to draw on.

Children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi said that he had visited Rothesay Nursery School in Luton, Lanterns Nursery School in Winchester, and Hindley Nursery School in Wigan and attended the APPG, which is chaired by Labour MP Lucy Powell.

In January, the minister announced that the Department for Education would be carrying out a feasibility study into the cost and value of nursery schools, with the findings published in the summer.

He said that he was ‘listening very carefully’ and working with the sector on this.

‘I think maintained nursery schools provide a very valuable part of the greater social mobility plan. We’ve made £60m available to them because they help the disadvantaged in our society.’

He added, ‘The message I’m sending out is that there is a spending review next year. I don’t want local government to make premature decisions. I saw first-hand what they do and I know how very critical they are to local communities.’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), called for better funding for all childcare providers, whether in the maintained or private, voluntary and independent sector.

She said, ‘High quality childcare needs to be well-funded across the board, irrespective of which sector it is delivered by. Recently we have seen increased nursery closures and general increased burdens on business.

‘The debate should be about what’s best for all children and delivering high quality, not which sector is delivering the provision.

‘Due to the policy of offering 15 or 30 funded hours per week to three and four-year-olds - which is not adequately funded, so providers are not paid at their going rate – all providers are struggling, not just local authority nursery schools.

‘We have urged the minister to look at the figures and make sufficient funding available in the next Spending Review to allow this policy to succeed without any more nurseries having to close their doors, causing devastation in their local area.

‘Providers from all sectors must work together to achieve the best outcomes for children and families.'

The full findings of research by Early  Education on the funding situation for maintained nursery schools will be released at the APPG on Nursery Schools, Nursery and Reception Classes, which meets in Parliament tomorrow.

  • Amanda King, head teacher, Bedworth Heath Nursery School and Early Years Teaching School will be running a workshop at the Nursery World conference, 'SEND in the early years: a child’s route to support and school', on Friday 6 July.

To book a place and for more information click here

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