A campaign to persuade ministers to secure the long-term funding of maintained nursery schools is being launched today.
Campaigners have warned that the state-funded nursery provision for children aged 2-4 has been left in an “impossibly precarious position” because of uncertainty over future funding.
School leaders, parents, governors, MPs and trade union leaders are now calling for a long-term funding settlement.
Quick read: Councils fear for future of maintained nurseries
The NAHT headteachers' union, which is backing the campaign, said maintained nursery schools are the “jewel in the social mobility crown”.
Around two-thirds of maintained nursery schools are run from the 30 per cent most deprived areas of the country.
The latest figures show 63 per cent of maintained nursery schools are graded "outstanding" by Ofsted and another 35 per cent are judged to be "good".
The NAHT’s general secretary Paul Whiteman 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.”
Nursery schools received a reprieve earlier this year when education minister Nadhim Zahawi announced £24 million of stop-gap funding to ensure schools could offer places for children for the full 2019-20 academic year.
Beatrice Merrick, the chief executive of Early Education, the secretariat for the all-party parliamentary group on nursery schools, nursery and reception classes added: “Maintained nursery schools are grateful for the £24 million 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 autumn 2019 – they won’t even know their funding for a full year ahead, which puts them in an impossibly precarious position.
“With 64 per cent 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.”
The launch of the funding campaign today will take place at Birmingham City Council House.
It follows 700 nursery heads, staff and governors marching to Downing Street earlier this year to deliver a letter to the chancellor raising concerns over funding.
The letter was signed by more than 250 of England’s 396 nursery heads.