There are 389 nursery schools in England. As a result of chronic underfunding, many have been forced to close in recent years.
Unless the Government changes course, even more nursery schools will face threat of closure. They have accepted that nursery school funding is insufficient and as a stopgap measure, allocated some money to plug the holes – but only till 2021.
The Government must make a funding commitment in the Budget on 11 March that secures the long-term future of maintained nursery schools.
Nursery schools face losing one third of their budget on average when the stopgap funding ends. This means severe cuts to the education and services they provide. In many cases, these cuts will simply put nursery schools at risk of closure.
Nursery schools educate around 40,000 children. The majority are located in the poorest parts of the country and, for many families, they are the only opportunity for early education. Up to 40,000 children could lose out completely on early education.
On Monday 2 March NEU maintained nursery school activists handed in the national petition to Downing Street ahead of the Spring budget announcement.
Save our nurseries campaign pack
Spread the word to colleagues with this poster.
Hand out this petition leaflet to parents at your nursery.
Use the sign up petition sheet to send a message to the Government.
Spread the word in your workplace or in your community, download and use our model powerpoint presentation.
Frequently asked questions on Maintained Nursery Schools
What are Maintained Nursery Schools (MNS)?
MNS are local authority run schools for 2, 3 and 4-year-olds. They provide education and other services to children and their families. There are currently only 392 maintained nursery schools (MNS) left open in England.
Why are MNS so important?
MNS are some of the highest quality institutions in our education system. All 392 MNS are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. MNS serve young children and their families all over England, with a large number of their pupils coming from the most deprived communities.
MNS have twice the proportion of pupils with a special educational need or disability (SEND) than other forms of early years provision and support many families in and around the edges of the care system struggling with multiple disadvantage. MNS also work as teaching schools developing future talent in the teaching profession and helping neighbouring early years provision – in all types of setting - to improve.
If nursery schools close, the cost of looking after children in great need will fall upon other services. It is also widely acknowledged that access to high quality early education, as provided by MNS, makes a substantial, positive difference to a child’s start in life and future educational achievement.
What is the difference between a MNS and a private provider?
Early years education and childcare is currently offered by a variety of providers. MNS are in the minority, with the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) sector forming a large majority.
MNS are schools. They have all the obligations of schools – they must have a headteacher, qualified teachers and a SENCO, must fulfil the same requirements as primary and secondary schools for governance, admissions procedures, attendance monitoring, etc. As a result, MNS running costs are higher than PVIs – but they do not have the same funding entitlements as maintained primary or secondary schools.
PVIs are owned privately and can offer sessional or full day care to children aged two to five. They, too, have been affected by cuts and inadequate funding: the government rate in support of its ‘free’ 30 hours childcare offer is in most cases insufficient to cover their cases. PVIs also think the additional £66 million of new funding announced by Sajid Javid for early education in August 2019 will not make even the smallest inroad into bridging what they call a £662 million funding gap in the sector.
Why is the NEU campaign about MNS and not PVIs?
The NEU is campaigning for all education funding to be increased and maintained at a level that provides high quality education for all. This includes our ask of approximately £400m for early years funding to bring this sector back in line with 2015 funding levels.
At the same time, we recognise that the MNS sector is a unique resource whose loss would lower the capacity and quality of early years provision as a whole. In addition, as a trade union, we have the responsibility to respond to the situation of our members. Here, defending the interests of our members in MNS and the interests of the sector coincide.
What is the Government doing to prevent MNS from closing?
The funding announcement on 30 August 2019 increased Early Years Funding, which includes MNS and is welcome, but it is not enough! NEU has calculated that Early Years funding should increase by £400m approximately by 2022/23 to return to 2015/16 funding levels, but the government has only confirmed £66M. This is a shortfall of approximately £334M.
In October 2019 the Government announced that the supplementary funding grant for maintained nursery schools will continue at its current rate for 2020/21.
On the same day, Schools Minister Nick Gibb stated that the Government remains committed to funding for MNS in the longer term. The Government must make a funding commitment in the Budget on 11 March 2020 that secures the long-term future of maintained nursery schools.
What are the aims of the NEU campaign?
The NEU argues MNS have proven value, so we need a long-term funding solution to prevent further closures. MNS need to be funded properly and should not be left in a position where they are unable to plan for the future.
The Government should be investing in existing provision as well as opening new fully funded MNS in areas that don’t have any. The government requires all schools to have three-year budgets in place, so MNS now need to be able to make reasonable assumptions about their budgets from 2021 onwards.
We call on the Government to make good on its recognition that MNS are schools and make a commitment to fund MNS on the same basis as all other schools. Given their particular focus on the most disadvantaged children – MNS should receive the pupil premium at the schools’ rate, including pupil premium plus for looked after children. The cost of providing schools-based funding should be in line with the amount of supplementary funding currently provided.
What can I do to support the campaign?
- Support the APPG on Nursery Schools, Nursery and Reception Classes.
- Sign and publicise the School Cuts petition to the Prime Minister asking him to take action to secure the future of nursery schools.
- Support the campaign to save maintained nursery schools on social media #SchoolCuts #SaveOurNurseries.