I am proud to support the Campaign to Protect Maintained Nurseries, and I am working with the headteacher of Staghills Nursery in Rossendale, and Cllr Maureen Bateson at Blackburn with Darwen Council to raise awareness of the threat. Maintained nursery schools offer outstanding education and care to some of our most vulnerable children, but without a guarantee of future funding they will not be sustainable.
A maintained nursery school is a local authority school for pre-school children run by a headteacher and specially qualified staff. They are often in deprived areas and their admission policies prioritise the children in greatest need, meaning that they can support children with special education needs and are able to take children which other settings do not have the expertise to support. According to the 2016-17 Ofsted report, 63 per cent of maintained nurseries were rated outstanding.
In 2017, a new funding formula was introduced by the Government to provide £55 million each year in supplementary funding for maintained nurseries. However, this funding is set to end after 2019/20.
In October, a survey by the Local Government Association revealed that almost two thirds of councils fear that maintained nursery schools in their area will close unless future funding is protected. This means thousands of children with special needs could miss out on vital daily care and support.
I am concern about what will then happen to these children. All our children are entitled to a good education and this includes early years education. The Government must ensure that there is a funding solution in place for maintained nursery schools. It has been recently reported that Lancashire nurseries receive the lowest level of funding in the country, with some authorities in England receiving almost double the hourly rate per child that nursery schools and care providers receive in Lancashire.
Executive member for children, young people and education at Blackburn with Darwen council, Councillor Maureen Bateson told me:
“The amount of money the Government has given to nurseries has left some of them struggling. For example, Turncroft, the only maintained nursery in Darwen, is just about balancing its budget, though this may change. The maintained nurseries in Blackburn are all in deficit, and they are very worried about the potential settlement. Luckily, we do have some transition money, but only for one year.
Early years is a really important element for children, and we will continue to lobby for more funding from the Government to keep them running and help them through the funding crisis.”
Headteacher of Staghills Nursery School, Linda Connolly, told me: “It is acknowledged by the Government that maintained nursery schools perform a different role to other forms of early years provision.
They transform lives, helping to close the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers. Without the funding guarantee from the Government, nursery schools like Staghills are facing an uncertain and desperate future.”