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Email: nursery update

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A message from NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman to members.

As you will know from our last email, we have been continuously lobbying the government regarding the critical issue of nursery funding since the start of term. You will have already seen our letter to the minister for early years asking her to urgently address this matter.

Throughout last week and over the weekend, we have continued to pressure the Department for Education (DfE) to change its approach, making it clear that time is rapidly running out.

We have also made it clear that the current policy could have catastrophic consequences for nurseries up and down the country. The government’s latest suggestion that nurseries can “furlough their staff” if they have reduced numbers reveals a complete lack of understanding of the reality on the ground and also in its own guidance.

We have also tried to bring additional pressure on the government by using our public voice through the media. You can read our latest press statement here.

While we have been told that the government is still “keeping this under review”, as of today, we still do not have a concrete solution on the table despite the efforts of a wide range of organisations. This lack of action on behalf of the government is reprehensible and puts our members in an incredibly difficult position.

We know that some local authorities have stepped in to provide support with funding. However, we know that others have simply reiterated the government’s existing position that funding will be based on attendance on census day later this week.

We will continue to do everything in our power in the coming days to get the government to see sense on this issue.

However, given how close we are now getting to the census, I know people will also be making decisions about what to do and how best to protect their nurseries should the government fail to act.

With that in mind, there are a number of steps we are recommending members take:

  • Firstly, if you haven’t already, make sure that you keep your governing body or trust board fully informed about the current situation and the dilemma your school faces. Ultimately, they are responsible for such matters, so they must be fully involved in the decision-making process.
  • Secondly, the government’s guidance has made it clear that where parents have chosen to keep their children away from nursery (where the provider remains open to the child, and they have not altered their parental declaration relating to expected hours), these children can still be counted. With that in mind, it would be prudent to proactively ask parents to confirm via email or in writing where this is the case. While we have not been told at this stage that evidence will be required, proactively seeking this support from as many parents as possible could be a very helpful step to take. We would hope that most parents would be supportive in this situation, given the potential consequences.

We also know that some local authorities and schools are working to put in place local solutions. We are keen to hear about these, particularly if they are solutions that could be applied elsewhere. With that in mind, if you have anything to share in this regard, you can email us here: organising@naht.org.uk.

Some of you have also asked what the implications are if you have had to reduce numbers at your nursery because of staff issuing section 44 letters. We have asked the DfE to clarify this today, and we will keep members informed of its response.

Rest assured, we will continue to pursue this relentlessly in the coming days and leave the government under no illusions regarding the damage it risks doing.

First published 18 January 2021