Editor's view - The shift to schools

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New childcare and education minister Sam Gyimah certainly didn't duck the issue of schools and nursery provision in his first public speech at Policy Exchange.


'School-led nurseries will be at the heart of our plan for education,'he declared, adding that he wants to give 'every parent the choice of a good school nursery'.

Ministers' speech writers choose their words very carefully, so the speech will be scrutinised for every nuance within it, especially by the PVI nurseries, who will sense the threat looming over their livelihoods. For example, Mr Gyimah says he wants to see schools teaming up with PVI nurseries, so that 'families can have the flexibility of private nurseries and the expertise of schools. The best of both worlds'. So, little regard for the 'expertise' of PVI nurseries then, as some were quick to point out on social media.

Mr Gyimah says that many schools already have 'most of the skills, resources and the buildings they need' to offer nursery provision. When it comes to caring for two-year-olds, is this really so? There is a shortage of Reception places for four-year-olds in many areas already, so space cannot be dismissed easily as not being a problem. And two-year-olds have quite different needs from older children; it cannot be assumed that the knowledge and environment are in place.

Some schools already provide excellent nursery services, but a wholesale shift seems unlikely. If it happens, there would be serious threats to the sustainability of PVI settings.

Sam Gyimah is talking at our Business Summit on 12 November and ARK Schools will also be explaining its plans to increase provision for younger children, followed by a debate.

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