Nursery school funding set for review

By Jess Brown

| 11 October 2016

The government is preparing to hold a consultation on how council-run nursery schools are funded, it has been claimed.

Research by the Family and Childcare Trust finds that nursery schools will be worst off under new funding proposals. Picture: Lucie Carlier

Under current government plans, outlined in August, all childcare providers, whether they are private, voluntary or maintained, will receive the same funding rate by 2019.

But there are concerns that many nursery schools, which are maintained by local authorities, could struggle to stay open under the new system because their costs are much higher as they are led by qualified teachers on higher levels of pay.

Two leading early years figures have told CYP Now that the Department for Education (DfE) is aware of concerns and a consultation on changes to the way nursery schools are funded is set to be launched.

Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of The British Association for Early Childhood Education, said the DfE announced its intention to hold a consultation on funding for nursery schools at a sector event last month.

"An official from DfE has certainly said [that there will be a consultation] in public at a Learn, Explore, Debate event," she said.

Sue Robb, head of early years at Action for Children, said she also understands a consultation will take place.

"The DfE stated that there would be a consultation on nursery schools funding going forward," she said.

Talk of changes to the way funding is provided to nursery schools follows research published by the Family and Childcare Trust (Fact) last month which found that nursery schools will be worse off under the existing funding proposals than other providers, with around one in five nursery schools predicted to lose money.

Fact estimates that, under the proposed funding arrangements, around £60m that currently goes to nursery schools will be redirected to private, voluntary and independent childcare providers.

The government has promised an extra £55m for nursery schools over the first two years, but it is not clear how this will work.

Merrick said: "We look forward to more detailed consultation from the DfE on how the proposed supplementary funding will be allocated to maintained nursery schools."

She said her organisation also wants to speak with the DfE about the existing proposals, including how funds will be distributed within a local authority area.

"Most crucially, we look forward to discussing arrangements after the initial two years, as there is no quick cheap fix which cuts costs without affecting the quality and capacity of nursery schools to continue supporting the education of the most disadvantaged children," she added.

In response to claims the government is to hold a consultation on how nursery schools are funded, a DfE spokesperson said the department "will not comment on speculation".

There are around 400 nursery schools across England. According to Ofsted, 60 per cent of these are rated as "outstanding", compared with 17 per cent of nurseries and 13 per cent of childminders.

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