• Heads, governors and staff representing hundreds of maintained nursery schools attend Parliamentary lobby and march on Downing Street as they cite real possibility their schools will close without long term funding solution
• Head teachers leading 251 nursery schools write joint letter to the Chancellor warning of terrible cost to social fabric, and the wider education system, if their schools cease to exist
Hundreds of nursery school heads and governors will descend on Westminster (today) Monday 11th March, to call on the Chancellor to safeguard the future of maintained nursery schools. The Parliamentary Lobby and march has been coordinated by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Nursery Schools, Nursery and Reception Classes, and school leaders’ union NAHT.
Nursery heads will lobby their Member of Parliament before marching on Downing Street to deliver a letter to the Chancellor signed by XX Heads and governors, demanding that the Treasury fully fund nursery schools for the long term, when the Spending Review comes. The Chancellor has an opportunity in the Spring Statement this Wednesday, to signal his intent.
Maintained nursery schools are local authority run schools for 2, 3 and 4-year-olds. They are the jewel in the social mobility crown, supporting some of our most disadvantaged children. 64 per-cent of maintained nursery schools are in the 30% most deprived areas of England. They offer the highest quality early education and care in our education system with 63 per-cent graded Outstanding by Ofsted and 35 per-cent good.
Nurseries received a small reprieve recently (28th February) with the Children’s Minister Nadhim Zahawi MP announcing £24 million of stop-gap funding to ensure schools could offer places for children for the full 2019/20 academic year. Whilst this funding is welcome, and a testament to the Ministers’ personal commitment to nursery schools there is no guarantee of adequate funding after the next academic year meaning maintained nursery schools could lose nearly a third of funding, £60 million, in the 2020/21 academic year, leaving thousands of children without a specialist nursery place.
In their joint letter to the Chancellor, Head teachers and governors thank Ministers for the £24 million additional funds, describing the work they do as ‘transformational, but increasingly under threat.” They caution Ministers that unless adequate future funding is guaranteed in the Spending Review, “the long term survival of maintained nursery schools hangs by a thread.” The letter goes on to say that “most maintained nursery schools have had to make large cuts and make hard decisions to balance reduced budgets. Exceptional, highly trained, early years staff have been lost to the system through restructures or because of the constant worry of an uncertain future. As Head teachers and governors we are trying to plan for a future that, without the sustainable funding, will probably mean the closure of our schools. There is a real possibility that our schools will close. This would be a disaster for the communities we represent, pulling the rug from under the children and families we support, as well as the aim and objectives of Ministers to tackle the ‘burning injustices’ facing our country.” The letter calls on Ministers to “safeguard the future of our schools, with a strong, sustainable, ambitious settlement in the Spending Review when that comes.” Ending with a warning that their “schools help families to grow, and we nurture and develop the children we support. There will be a terrible cost to our social fabric, and the wider education and care system if our schools cease to exist.”
Lucy Powell MP, Chair of the APPG Nursery Schools, Nursery and Reception Classes said:
“Nursery schools received welcome respite recently, and I thank the Children’s Minister for his work. However, we now need to see a long term funding guarantee for nursery schools in the Spending Review. Nurseries have had to go cap in hand to the government year after year, demoralising staff, and causing parents worry. These vital institutions need long term sustainability if we’re to shift the dial and eliminate the development gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. That’s why I’m proud to march with Heads on Downing Street, and support their calls for sustainable future funding.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
“Maintained nursery schools have a critical role to play in the delivery of high-quality early years education, especially for children with special educational needs, but their future has been left uncertain by the government’s new approach to early years funding. Currently maintained nursery schools are funded in a way that recognises their importance. But this additional funding comes to an end in 2020, leaving schools unsure if they will be able to carry on or plan beyond that date.”
Beatrice Merrick, Chief Executive of Early Education, the Secretariat for the APPG Nursery Schools, Nursery and Reception Classes added:
“Maintained nursery schools are grateful for the £24m the Chancellor provided for summer 2020, but a long term funding solution remains urgent. If it has to wait until the spending review – the timing of which is still uncertain, but seems unlikely to happen before the autumn 2019 – they won’t even know their funding for a full year ahead, which puts them in an impossibly precarious position. With 64% expecting to be in deficit by that point, we are in real danger of losing some of England’s highest quality early years provision which has a unique role in supporting some of our most disadvantaged children and families. Government must urgently move forward in finding a long-term funding solution for these schools.”
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