The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), and education charity, Early Education, have written to 100 local authorities in England urging them stop ‘unnecessary’ plans to close the maintained nursery schools under their control.
The groups are asking local authorities ‘not to rush’ into making any decisions regarding the future of maintained nursery schools before the government confirms how future funding will work.
Maintained nursery schools play a vitally important role in the education system. They offer the highest quality early education and care, and disproportionately support children from deprived backgrounds and those with SEND.
They also work as teaching schools supporting teacher training and helping neighbouring early years provision to improve.
The government has backed maintained nursery schools by protecting their funding until the end of 2021 but a long-term funding solution has yet to be provided.
A letter has been sent by Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, in response to a number of local authorities recently launching reviews of their nursery schools which could ultimately lead to some being forced to close.
Mr Whiteman says: ‘Despite the recent commitment by the government to the long-term future funding of maintained nursery schools, I have been extremely concerned to hear that some local authorities have recently launched reviews which could ultimately lead to the closure some of these schools.
‘While I fully understand and appreciate the enormous financial pressure LAs are operating under, I would strongly urge you not to rush into taking any such decisions before we have a clear picture from government regarding how future funding will work.
‘We have already seen a reduction in the number of maintained nursery schools across the country due to existing funding pressures, and it would be a travesty if we were to lose any more simply because local authorities are jumping the gun.
‘If the government are able to find the right solution, such decisions should be completely unnecessary and could do untold long-term damage. I would ask that all local authorities wait until they have the complete picture before proceeding with any such decisions.’
The Department for Education (DfE) has also recently written to local authorities to reiterate the government’s commitment to the long-term funding of maintained nursery schools.
Cllr Judith Blake, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board said:
‘Maintained nursery schools provide high levels of support to disadvantaged children and those with special educational needs.
‘Additional legal responsibilities to other provision means they are more expensive to run but supplementary funding for them is not guaranteed beyond next year.
‘Councils do not want to close excellent provision and have already worked hard to support maintained nurseries in challenging circumstances.
‘The significant financial pressure that they are under means that urgent clarity from government on future funding is vital if they are to protect these settings in the long-term.’
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