Campaigners are petitioning the prime minister to make a long-term funding pledge to secure the future of nursery schools.
Parents and teachers are set to gather at Downing Street tomorrow to call for more money for the country’s 389 state nursery schools.
A petition that has so far gathered more than 27,000 signatures, organised by the union-backed Stop School Cuts campaign, will be handed over tomorrow afternoon.
Quick read: Funding announced for maintained nursery schools
It calls on the government to make a long-term commitment to funding nursery schools in its Spring budget.
Last year, the government announced a boost for nursery school funding but this runs out in 2021.
The Department for Education has said it is committed to funding these schools “in the longer term.”
The new petition follows a call from a school leaders’ union to local authorities not to make decisions about nursery schools’ future as the sector awaits a clear picture on future funding from the government.
The NAHT school leaders' union has written to 100 councils asking them not to rush into decisions regarding the future of maintained nursery schools under their control
The union said the letter has been sent in response to a number of local authorities launching reviews of their nursery schools, which could ultimately lead to closures.
The Stop School Cuts petition being handed over at Downing Street tomorrow says: “After years of chronic underfunding, the very survival of nursery schools is under threat. Only 389 nursery schools remain open across England today.
“Unless the government changes course, even more nursery schools may be forced to close their doors.”
It says that supplementary funding announced in October 2019 was welcome but runs out next year.
The petition adds: “This means severe cuts to the education and services that nursery schools provide. In many cases, these will put nursery schools at risk of closure.
“The government must make a funding commitment in the spring Budget on 11 March that secures the long-term future of maintained nursery schools.
“Prime minister Boris Johnson must guarantee proper funding until the end of Parliament and ensure no more nursery schools are forced to close because of insufficient budgets.”
In a report in the Guardian, the NEU teaching union's joint general secretary Mary Bousted said: “Heads of maintained nurseries are hanging on by their fingernails,” she said.
She said the majority of maintained nurseries were “beacons of excellence” in deprived areas, and their closure would affect disadvantaged families.
Dr Bousted added: “These are exactly the areas that Boris Johnson and this government talk about in terms of levelling up. Well, one of the best ways they can level up is by keeping these nurseries going and well-funded ... I think it’s an act of unjustifiable neglect.”
A DfE spokesperson said: “We recognise the importance of maintained nursery schools and the valuable services they provide, particularly in disadvantaged areas.
“We are providing around £60 million of supplementary funding for maintained nursery schools during the 2020-21 financial year and are committed to funding for these settings in the longer term.”