55 heads, staff, governors and parents from maintained nursery schools (MNS) attended the NAHT Summit in Burnley last week. Attendees came from across the North West: Cumbria, Cheshire, Merseyside, Halton, with many from Manchester and Lancashire.
The summit features a panel consisting of Julie Cooper, MP for Burnley, Beatrice Merrick, CEO of early years charity Early Education and Judy Shaw, NAHT Vice-President and head of an infant and nursery school in Calderdale. All spoke passionately about the importance of such high-quality early years provision, and the fight to secure their future.
During an emotionally-charged session, attendees discussed the cuts they have had to make, and staff they were having to let go. One long-serving member of staff told of how she was considering leaving so that a younger staff member could have a job.
Many attendees spoke about the way in which their schools served their local communities, often in the most deprived areas.
There was also a parent’s testimony of how she had been through many private nurseries, and it was only when they began attending a maintained nursery school, that her son’s high needs were identified.
One nursery head spoke about how they had taken in a child with disabilities because private nurseries had not wanted to cater for those needs, and many school leaders spoke about their inability to plan budgets beyond 2020 as they did not know what funding they were going to receive, with some having to rely on bid money, which is both resource-intensive and not sustainable in the longer term.
There was also plenty of discussion about the unique features of MNS and how they differ to those within private settings. Attendees were particularly concerned that many councillors and local authorities did not understand the difference between the two.
The recruitment and retention crisis also loomed large, with many school leaders sharing their stories of how they were struggling to attract and keep hold of staff while only able being to offer temporary contracts because of the funding uncertainties.
First published 19 October 2018