06 Feb 2019, Catherine Gaunt
Both Labour and Conservative MPs united to present around 90 petitions from nursery schools in their constituencies calling for action to tackle the funding shortfall they face in 2020.
The mass petition was co-ordinated by Lucy Powell MP and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Nursery Schools, Nursery and Reception Classes.
The petitions from across England have been signed by thousands of parents, carers, staff and governors at nursery schools calling on Parliament to urge ministers to take action to safeguard the future of nursery schools. More petitions will be presented to Parliament this evening.
Two thirds of maintained nursery schools are in the most deprived areas of the country, with 98 per cent of them graded outstanding or good.
Since 2016 16 maintained nursery schools have closed and there are now only 392 that remain open, with Government figures showing that many of them are experiencing a cash crisis.
Presenting the petitions in Parliament Ms Powell said, ‘The petitioners raise concerns about the future viability of maintained nursery schools. One third of their funding is due to end next April—that is the next academic year. Without continued supplementary funding or a long-term solution to sustainable funding, many nurseries could close, and many are already taking staffing and place decisions for next year.
'These nurseries are the jewel in the crown of our education system, boosting social mobility and eliminating the development gap between poorer pupils and their peers’ pre-school. Warm words are not enough from ministers; we now need action.’
While the Government has recognised their crucial role with ministers committing extra funding for maintained nursery schools of £60m a year until 2019-20 following the introduction of the Early Years National Funding Formula, no guarantee has been given for future funding.
Ministers have said that maintained nursery schools must await the outcome of the Spending Review to hear about their future but campaigners fear this will come too late for many.
New analysis of spending figures for 2017/18 shows that more than a fifth (20.3 per-cent) of nursery schools are in the red.
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 perc ent.
The average budget deficit for nursery schools has increased from £39,618 in 2009/10 to £60,798 in 2017/18.
House of Commons library research shows maintained nursery schools could lose just under a third of their funding in 2020 when the supplementary funding ends.
Around 30 MPs have also co-ordinated a letter sent today (6 February) to children's minister Nadhim Zahawi calling for answers about what extra funding will be available in the future for maintained nursery schools.