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Maintained nurseries at risk, according to survey

By Rachel Lawler
 
child nursery funding
Children with special needs will miss out on early support if the government doesn’t promise additional funding for maintained nursery schools, according to a new survey from the Local Government Association (LGA).
 
Since the launch of the new early years funding formula in 2017, the government has granted maintained nursery schools an additional £55 million funding to make up the shortfall.
 
However, this additional support is due to end in 2019/2020.
 
Funding concerns
61% of the local authorities asked said that they were concerned that maintained nursery schools in their area would close if this funding was not extended.
 
52% of local authorities said that the reduced funding would also mean that children with SEND might not get the same level of support.
 
Extended funding
The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, is asking the government to commit to extending the additional funding into 2020/2021 until a long-term solution can be found.
 
There are currently 397 maintained nurseries in England with more than 40,900 children on roll – 13.8% of these children have SEND.
 
Antoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “As our survey shows, councils have grave concerns about the future of maintained nursery schools if the current funding does not continue beyond 2020.
 
“This could have a detrimental impact on children with special educational needs, for whom maintained nurseries provide a lifeline of support.”
 
Provider support
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, added: “We share the LGA’s concerns about the impact of inadequate government funding on the ability of childcare providers to provide the best possible support to children with SEND.
 
“It is absolutely vital that these children have the same access to quality early years provision as their peers – and yet we know that providing the quality care and support that children with SEND need often comes at a significant cost to providers.
 
“This is true for the 397 maintained nursery schools currently operating across the country, but it is equally true for the 60,000-odd private and voluntary pre-school, nurseries and childminders providing the majority of places for the 85,000 two-, three- and four-year-olds in England estimated to have SEND.
 
“That’s why it’s so important that the Department for Education ensures that it is funding all early years providers equally – and that is simply not the case at the moment.
 
“This is a direct consequence of a policy focus on ‘childcare’ and getting parents back to work that has little to no regard for the quality of provision. The government needs to remember that early years provision is also about providing a first-rate early education and ensuring that all children, including those with SEND, are given the best possible start in life.”
 
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