Nurseries still face 'devastating' cuts

12th February 2010 at 00:00
Free early-years education to be slashed by half in some of England's most deprived areas

Original paper headline: Nurseries still facing `devastating' cuts despite delay to funding change

Thousands of children in some of the most deprived parts of the country will have their nursery provision cut by half, despite the Government's decision to delay an overhaul of early-years funding.

Local authorities, including Birmingham and Newcastle, plan to cut free education in nursery schools to just 15 hours a week.

The move is a response to the new Early Years Single Funding Formula (EYSFF), which has led to widespread predictions of job cuts as well as a reduction in the number of places for children.

The changes, imposed by the Government, were initially scheduled for this April, were put back by a year following complaints from councils.

Four authorities have already implemented the new formula, 60 have asked to implement it this year, with the remainder to follow in April 2011.

It had been hoped that the extra time would allow local authorities offering free full-time places to find a way to save them.

But Birmingham and Newcastle have confirmed that the cuts will go ahead, although they hope to retain some free full-time places for vulnerable children.

Susie Warburton, a governor and parent at Walkergate Early Years Centre in Newcastle, submitted evidence to the Commons education select committee inquiry on nursery provision in which she said funding changes are "devastating the jewel in the crown of education".

"The best of Britain's nursery provision is being literally financially and educationally ripped in half."

Dee Teasdale, headteacher at Walkergate, said the centre was set to lose around pound;270,000 from its annual budget under the changes.

Fran Munby, head of St Thomas Children's Centre in Birmingham, said: "We have been told we can offer full-time places this September, but the problem is still there for April 2011."

The funding changes coincide with an increase in the minimum provision that must be offered to all nursery-aged children, from 12.5 to 15 hours a week.

The aim is to spread funding equitably across all early-years providers, including private nurseries and independent schools.

However, it has attracted criticism from the independent as well as the maintained sector.

The Independent Schools Council warned that some of its members would stop offering early-years places altogether.

Formulas in different parts of the country are inconsistent and risk making it impossible for some schools to continue offering funded places, it said.

How the equation adds up

The Early Years Single Funding Formula is an equation used to decide how much funding each provider will receive for its three and four-year- olds.

A key change is that all providers will receive money calculated according to the number of children rather than the number of places on offer.

The biggest impact will be felt in the maintained sector, with some nursery schools set to lose considerable amounts of funding.

The private, voluntary and independent sectors have given the plans a mixed reception.

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