School leaders’ union NAHT has written to the director for education at Lancashire County Council to urge them to halt a consultation on the financial viability of 24 maintained nursery schools in the area.
The consultation was put on hold during the pandemic and after both NAHT and the Department for Education (DfE) wrote to all local authorities last February. At the time NAHT reiterated the government’s commitment to the long-term funding of maintained nursery schools and asking them not to rush into making any decisions regarding their future before the government confirms how that funding will work.
The government has explicitly said ‘that decision makers should adopt a presumption against closure’ and has protected funding for maintained nursery schools until the end of 2021.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Maintained nursery schools play a vitally important role in our education system. They offer the highest quality early education and care and disproportionately support children from deprived backgrounds and those with SEND. They also work as teaching schools supporting teacher training and helping neighbouring early years provision to improve.
“The essential value of maintained nursery schools has been clearly demonstrated during the Covid-19 crisis. They have remained open throughout lockdown, working tirelessly to provide essential support for families in some of the most deprived areas of the UK. It is widely accepted that early intervention is one of the most effective strategies to address gaps in learning. Children need the extra support of maintained nursery schools now more than ever as we tackle the challenge of education recovery.
“It is deeply concerning that a decision has been taken to forge ahead with a consultation in the midst of a continuing global pandemic and at a time when schools are focused on staying open and supporting children. The government has said that no child should be left behind but a threat to maintained nursery schools weakens the country’s best hope for education recovery.
“Lancashire is the first council we know to have started a formal consultation, but the question mark over maintained nursery school funding is a national problem. The government needs to step in to stop this becoming a national disaster if others follow. We urge Lancashire county council and all local authorities to pause and ask the government to immediately confirm the extension of supplementary funding to 2022, as well as finally providing the long-term funding solution that has been repeatedly promised.”
This comes as education unions NEU, NAHT, and Unison, and charity Early Education meet on Wednesday 24 March to discuss early years education and the importance of maintained nursery schools. You can register to attend this event here: http://bit.ly/3lIhn82
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