There are 392 nursery schools in England. Many face severe cuts in provision or even closure if the Government refuses to implement funding increases for future years. The Government has accepted that nursery school funding is insufficient and as a stopgap measure, it allocated some money to plug the holes – but only til 2020. Even with the Prime Minister’s recent announcement of £66m for early year education, maintained nurseries won’t see this money until next year. Headteachers face losing up to a third of their budgets on average next year, meaning every single maintained nursery faces cuts or closure by 2020.

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.

Frequently asked questions

  • 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. Aall 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. 

    Shockingly, there has been no announcement about funding for the 392 MNS.  31% of MNS funding comes from a special grant, which is roughly £60m a year. The grant runs out in August 2020. The grant is a constituent part of the Early Years Funding block.  We need to secure a commitment to continue this grant for MNS beyond August 2020.

  • 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 2020 onwards. 

    We call on 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?

Sign this petition to save our nursery schools

There are 392 nursery schools in England. The majority are located in the poorest parts of the country and, for many children, they are the only opportunity for early education. As a result of chronic underfunding, many nursery schools have been forced to close in recent years.

Unless the Government changes course, even more nursery schools will face threat of closure, as early as September 2020.

The Government has accepted that nursery school funding is insufficient. As a stopgap measure, it allocated some money to plug the holes – but only till 2020. Even with the recent funding announcement for schools and colleges, there is no funding commitment to secure the future of maintained nursery schools. Nursery schools face losing one third of their budget on average next year. 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.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson must guarantee proper funding for the long term and ensure no more nursery schools are forced to close because of insufficient budgets.  

Model powerpoint for workplace and public meeting

Save our nurseries campaign pack 

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