MPs to tell ministers time is running out to save nursery schools

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Cross-party MPs will warn ministers that all of England’s maintained nursery schools are at real risk of closure, threatening the life chances of vulnerable children, in a debate in the main chamber of Parliament today.

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Labour MP Lucy Powell and other MPs are calling on the Government to find an urgent funding solution for nursery schools

It comes as new analysis suggests the ‘cash crisis’ for maintained nursery schools is growing, with settings set to lose a third of their funding next year.

MPs including Labour’s Lucy Powell, Ruth George and Harriet Harman and Conservatives Robert Halfon - chair of the Education Select Committee - Lucy Allan and William Wragg will come together to debate the sustainability of maintained nursery schools.

They will warn that waiting for the Spending Review, a date for which has not been set, to find a funding solution past 2020, as suggested by ministers, will be too late for many settings.

During the backbench business committee debate, the MPs will vote for a motion for Government to safeguard the future of maintained nursery schools by guaranteeing transitional funding after 2020 as soon as possible, while a long-term plan to ensure their future viability is found by the Comprehensive Spending Review.

New research from the House of Commons Library and analysis of Government spending figures on maintained nursery schools by Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central and chair of the APPG on Nursery Schools, Nursery and Reception Classes, suggests mass closure of nursery schools if additional funding from April 2020 is not guaranteed.

Together the research and analysis show:

  • Maintained nursery schools could lose just under a third of their funding in 2020 when supplementary funding of £60 million per year ends.
  • Spending figures for 2017/18 reveal more than a fifth (20.3 per cent) of nursery schools are in the red.
  • For the fourth year in a row, the proportion of nursery schools in budget deficit is twice the proportion of all schools. One in five maintained nursery schools are in deficit, compared with one in ten of all schools.
  • In 2009/10 just 3.5 per cent of nursery schools were in budget deficit, with the proportion now six times higher – an increase of 480 per cent.
  • The average budget deficit for nursery schools has risen from £39,618 in 2009/10 to £60,798 in 2017/18.

There are currently 392 maintained nursery schools in England. A total of 16 have closed since 2016 because of funding pressures.

Lucy Powell MP said, ‘The loss of maintained nursery schools would be a terrible act of social vandalism. While we often hear warm words about the excellent education nursery schools provide, this needs to be urgently backed up by secure, long-term funding, so that we can safeguard the future of nursery schools across the country.’

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