Commenting on the passing of motion 35 at the National Education Union’s Annual Conference, which is being held virtually, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“In principle, our government accepts that high-quality early years education is essential in the fight against educational disadvantage. In practice, it is a different story. 

“The number of maintained nursery schools is falling. Lacking any long-term funding guarantee and having been declared ineligible for government financial support for the costs of Covid-19, those nursery schools that remain open are under extreme financial pressure. Only 28% expect to balance their budget in the current financial year. 

“These schools are proven centres of excellence, often located in the most deprived areas of the country and providing skills and resources which support neighbouring early years settings. It is essential that these are not lost. Yet a steady and unforgivable process of amalgamations and closures is leading precisely in that direction. 

“Over the last year, the NEU has worked with the NAHT, Unison and Early Education in a campaign which has reached literally millions of people. We have supported the valuable work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Nursery Schools, Nursery and Reception classes. With them, we call on the government to guarantee that maintained nursery schools will have viable long-term funding from September 2021.

“The NEU is determined that the early years sector will not be the poor relation of the education system. If the government thinks it can quietly preside over the dissolution of the precious resource that maintained nurseries represent, it is wrong. Today’s resolution commits the union to redouble our efforts. Working with a range of organisations, we will step up our effort to ensure increased funding. We will commit new resources to supporting and organising our members in maintained nurseries. We are determined to expose the government’s lackadaisical neglect of this vital sector.”