Almost a third of nursery schools say their future is on a knife edge, according to a survey released this week.
The research, carried out by the Early Education for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Nursery Schools, suggests that 29 per cent of England’s maintained nursery schools are unsure about their immediate future.
A total of 271 of England's 397 maintained nursery schools responded to the survey which also found that 64 per cent of respondents expected to be in the red by 2020.
“With our deficit due to worsen this year, based on current funding, we will struggle to last beyond this financial year,” one respondent to the survey said.
Nursery schools were given an extra £60 million by the government last year to support them through changes to the way early years education is funded. But this funding is due to end in 2020.
Lucy Powell, Labour MP and chair of the APPG on Nursery Schools, described maintained nursery schools as “the jewel in the social mobility crown” and called for their future to be secured.
“They [maintained nursery schools] have a proven record of narrowing the attainment gap between poorer children and their peers and support a far greater number of vulnerable children and those with special educational needs, than private nurseries," she said.
“The uncertainty around future funding is threatening the viability of many schools, and the services they provide to families and children.
“We’ve heard warm words from ministers about the unique and vital role maintained nursery schools play in our education system, now we need to see urgent action and a recognition from ministers that nursery schools are schools, so that we can secure future funding so these vital institutions don’t wither on the vine, and die out entirely.”
Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons Education Select Committee, told the Today programme yesterday that Treasury “beancounters” needed to look at nurseries in terms of cost-benefit, saying not investing now “will store up huge problems later on”.
Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "Maintained nursery schools make a valuable contribution to improving the lives of some of our most disadvantaged children – that’s why we are providing £60 million a year up until 2020.
“I regularly meet with maintained nursery school leaders and we continue to work closely together to better understand the value these nurseries offer, so I would urge councils not to make premature decisions on the future of these nurseries as this work continues.”