Government to invest in school nurseries in deprived areas

By Nina Jacobs

| 01 August 2018

Schools in deprived areas will be encouraged by the government to create more nursery places as part of efforts to improve the attainment of disadvantaged children.

The government aims to halve the number of children not reaching expected attainment levels at the end of reception year. Image: Ruth Fry

The plans, unveiled by Education Secretary Damian Hinds, will see "successful" schools bid for a share of a £30m funding pot to develop nursery facilities so they can increase their pre-school pupil numbers.

Hinds said schools will be invited to run projects that demonstrate "innovative" approaches to close the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers.

It follows latest Department for Education research which shows more than a quarter of four and five-year-olds lack the early communication and literacy skills expected by the end of reception year.

The "expected level" includes a child being able to express themselves clearly and read simple sentences.

Hinds said the initiative will include a focus on creating partnerships between schools and councils, multi-academy trusts (MATs) or charities.

More than £45m has already been announced for successful MATs in a bid to help tackle underperformance and improve schools in areas that lack capacity.

Hinds reiterated an earlier commitment to spend £20m to improve the speech and language development skills of early staff in disadvantaged areas.

He said the funding aimed to drive up standards in pre-school settings so children will be better prepared for primary school.

The range of new measures will also look at ways of supporting parents with helping children learn new words and develop their communication skills, he added.

Click link below for related CYP Now content:

Special Report: Early Childhood Development

Analysis: Boosting attainment in reception

The funding forms part of government plans to halve the number of children finishing reception year without the early communication or reading skills they need by 2028.

However, the latest announcement has been met with criticism by early years leaders.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association, said the priority should not be on capital infrastructure programmes to develop new provision.

"The existing provision in the private and third sector already provides highly qualified staff delivering high quality childcare so the priority should be to make the best use of this existing resource," she said.

Tanuku said the priority for the government and local authorities should be to work with providers to deliver high quality care in existing settings.

"Some local authorities are already struggling to maintain existing provision with budget cuts," she said. "Private and third sector nurseries play a key role in delivering the social mobility agenda and supporting families," she added.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said if the government was committed to closing the attainment gap it should confirm how it planned to safeguard the future of children's centres.

"This will ensure that those families that need it most have access to the early support services that they need," he said.

The government announced its social mobility action plan last year setting out investment in a range of areas including £50m to boost nursery school provision and a £23m Future Talent Fund to trial a range of new teaching approaches to support children from disadvantaged communities.

blog comments powered by Disqus