Nursery schools twice as likely to be in deficit than schools

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New Government figures reveal in each of the last three years, the proportion of nursery schools in deficit has been double that of all schools.

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Nearly 1 in 5 maintained nursery schools were in budget deficit in 2016-17

The figures were released by school standards minister Nick Gibb in response to a parliamentary question put forward by the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Nursery Schools, Nursery and Reception Classes, Labour MP Lucy Powell.

Ms Powell asked what proportion of maintained nursery schools, local authority primary and secondary schools, primary and secondary academies were in budget deficit in the last three years.

Figures published in response show that nearly 1 in 5 maintained nursery schools (18 per cent) were in budget deficit in 2016-17, compared with 1 in 10 of all schools.

The year prior, 2015-16, 13 per cent nursery schools were in deficit, compared to 6 per cent of all maintained schools and 6 per cent of academy trusts.

In 2014-15, 11 per cent of nursery schools were in deficit, compared to 5 per cent of all maintained schools and 4 per cent of academy trusts.

The release of the figures follow findings from a survey of the APPG on Nursery Schools, Nursery and Reception classes, to which 271 nursery schools responded, showing 39 per cent had a deficit budget this year and 64 per cent expect to be in deficit in 2019-20.

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Lucy Powell said, ‘I know ministers are personally committed to these treasured institutions but that won’t pay the bills. Funding changes and future uncertainties could see many of these wonderful early years centres of excellence close by stealth.

‘We need an urgent funding settlement that safeguards the future of these vital champions of social mobility after 2020. State maintained nursery schools embody all that is excellent in the early years, supporting some of the most vulnerable children with a proven track record of closing the early years gap that exists pre-school. It is simply inconceivable that ministers want to preside over the wholesale closure of these much loved local institutions that have schooled generations of children. 

‘If the Government isn’t careful, many nursery schools will close by stealth waiting for help that many never come. They cannot wait for the spending review. We need action now to safeguard their future in the short term, whilst a long term fix is found so these schools can thrive and grow.’

In his parliamentary response, school standards minister Nick Gibb said, ‘The Department trusts schools to manage their own budgets. The vast majority of schools are operating with a cumulative surplus, with only a small percentage in cumulative deficit. An academy trust may contain a mixture of primary and secondary academies. Trusts are the legal entities responsible for academies, including their finances and are accountable at trust level.’

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