'Threatened' maintained nursery schools to get £24m boost

Maintained nurseries told they will get extra funding for summer term of 2020

Helen Ward

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Maintained nursery schools will get a £24 million boost to help see them through a term to the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, it will be announced today.

Nadhim Zahawi, children and families minister, is due to announce the funding at a conference of early years professionals in Manchester today.

The announcement comes after increasing concerns about the fate of England’s 397 maintained nursery schools without the supplementary funding, which was due to end in March 2020.

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The supplementary funding of £55 million a year has been given to maintained nurseries since 2017, when a new early years funding formula was introduced, to help keep their funding at 2016-17 levels.

But a survey last term found almost two-thirds (61 per cent) of councils fear maintained nurseries in their area will close unless future funding is protected.

Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, said at the time: "This provision is now under threat unless government commits to an extra year of funding in 2020-21 as part of wider work to find a long-term sustainable funding solution in the Spending Review."

The announcement today, which provides funding until the end of the August 2019, will offer some reassurance to nurseries, say campaigners, but a long-term solution is still needed. The government has said that the funding will provide certainty up to the next spending review. 

The "very welcome" continuation of supplementary funding will ensure schools can be confident about admissions decisions in 2019-20 said Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of charity Early Education, which has been leading the campaign for a long-term funding solution.

She added: “We know headteachers, governors and local authorities will still be on tenterhooks for long-term funding solution that allows them to budget for the future.”

Lucy Powell MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for nursery schools, nursery and Reception classes, said: “Nursery schools are the jewel in the social mobility crown, closing the gap between disadvantaged children and their better-off peers pre-school.

"This welcome respite about their future sustainability is a good thing. We must now see a firm commitment in the spending review, to ensure that nursery schools have the security and stability they need to grow and thrive in future years.”

Mr Zahawi will also announce that 1,000 health visitors are to be trained to spot and support children’s early language needs, as part of the government’s drive to tackle the ‘word gap’, the gap in communication skills between disadvantaged children and their peers.

The minister is expected to say: “Being able to communicate and express yourself is the gateway to success, not just in school but in later life. It’s these crucial early years that make the most impact on a child’s future path – because for those children who start out behind their peers, it’s so much harder to catch up."


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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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