Protect funding or nurseries will close, ministers warned
The Government must protect funding for state-run nurseries in England or risk seeing schools close, a Labour MP has warned.
Emma Reynolds has raised concerns over the threat of funding cuts to maintained nursery schools, which could see them lose around £60 million a year from 2020, when the current funding settlement expires.
The Department for Education, which has undertaken a feasibility study into the costs and value of nurseries, said funding decisions would be made at the next Spending Review.
Wolverhampton North East MP Ms Reynolds has written to Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi calling for assurances to 'end the uncertainty' over nursery schools.
England has 400 maintained nursery schools – which are owned and directly paid-for by the state – including around 25 in the Black Country and Staffordshire.
Ms Reynolds said that it was wrong that funding for maintained nursery schools had not been guaranteed post-2020, despite the vast majority of them being rated either outstanding or good by Ofsted.
"The Government has provided no clarity about what will happen after that date when the current funding runs out," she said.
"These excellent nursery schools including Ashmore Park, Bushbury and Low Hill in my own constituency could be at risk due to proposed future funding changes by education ministers.
“The clock is ticking."
She urged the minister to 'listen to the evidence and protect and expand the role that nursery schools play in our communities'.
"This would give our children the strongest foundation to do well in later life," Ms Reynolds said.
Tory MPs have also raised concerns about nursery school funding.
Robert Halfon, the Conservative chairman of the education select committee, said Treasury 'bean-counters' would store up huge problems if the schools were not protected.
Tory ministerial aide Craig Tracey and Chichester MP Gillian Keegan said they had raised the issue with ministers.
State run nurseries have to hire better-qualified staff than private nurseries, and often teach and care for children with disabilities and special education needs.
The majority are based in disadvantaged areas.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds has identified programmes run in such nurseries as assets in improving social mobility – staging a media event in a Luton school in April – but some are already struggling to stay open.
According to a survey from an All Party Parliamentary Group supporting nurseries, the majority of the schools expect to run budget deficits next year.