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It is increasingly untenable that the law refuses to recognise private and voluntary nurseries as ‘educational establishments’

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Liz Roberts

Should nurseries be classified as ‘educational establishments’ and even as ‘schools’?

Given that the Early Years Foundation Stage is a statutory framework for young children’s learning and development, with mandatory assessment at the end with the Profile, and given that the Government funds nurseries to provide increasing numbers of hours of early education and care, you would think so.

Yet the position of nurseries in legislation makes it clear that they are not viewed as educational establishments. This has substantial financial disadvantages, of course, in terms of bsuiness rates and VAT.

Two recent stories highlight further drawbacks of this situation. Earlier this year, we reported on the first ruling under planning law that a nursery cannot be counted as a school, when Bright Horizons was refused planning permission to install portable buildings at one of its nurseries. It would have been exempt if it had been seen as a school. The judge took the view that legal school age was a major factor.

And in this issue, we look at confusion over whether nurseries need to pay for music licences, even if they are only playing music for educational purposes. Again the view is that PVI nurseries are not exempt as ‘educational establishments’ are, with both the Copyright Designs and Patents Act and, indeed, the Childcare Act 2006 plainly saying that nurseries are not schools.

Aside from financial inequalities, surely this unfair legislative position does not help to raise the status of early years education and the professionals who work in the sector. I have attended several events recently where the problem of how to attract high-quality applicants to work in early years was high on the agenda. Recognising in law that the EYFS is there for the purpose of education would be a start.

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