The current government has recognised maintained nursery schools' crucial role and that the Early Years National
Funding Formula (EYNFF) does not adequately provide for their costs. When introducing the EYNFF for other early years providers in 2017, it therefore committed to maintaining level funding for
maintained nursery schools until 2019-20 through a block of supplementary funding of around £59m per year. However, no guarantee on funding has been given after 2020, leaving maintained nursery schools unable to plan and budget for the future.
An extension of that funding for 2020-21 is needed urgently to avoid the risk of mass
closures. The opportunity to address this in the October 2018 budget was missed, and time is running out to resolve the
The early years minister has repeatedly said local authorities should hold off on decisions about the closure of
maintained nursery schools and await the next spending review, but the expected date of the review in autumn 2019 will be too late:
- Nursery schools will need to offer places to children in the spring of 2019 for the 2019-20 school year, but don’t know
if any supplementary funding will be available for the summer term of 2020. Nursery schools need to know they can offer places in good faith, confident that their funding will not be
- Schools are already struggling to set budgets: our survey found that by 2019-20, even before the end of the supplementary
funding, 64% of maintained nursery schools expect to be in deficit. A combination of rising costs, a growing crisis in funding for SEND support, lack of supplementary funding
for children eligible for the 30 hours and the unpredictability of the supplementary funding allocations are putting pressure on nursery school budgets, in many cases compounded by reductions in
children’s centre budgets.
- Loss of the £59m supplementary funding would
represent an average cut of 31% – for some schools far more. The government must keep to its commitment that maintained nursery
schools funding should remain constant relative to 2016-17, the final year before the introduction of the EYNFF, when the amount of early years funding for maintained nursery schools totalled
- In a recent report from the Local Government
Association[i], 61% of local authorities with maintained nursery schools feared that
their nursery schools would close if their funding wasn’t protected, and 52% said loss of that funding would reduce the support available for children with SEND (maintained
nursery schools support more than double the average number of children with SEND – 13.8% compared to a national average of 6.3% of nursery age children.
- London Councils has also issued a report[ii] on behalf of its members highlighting the important role maintained nursery schools play in closing
the gap and promoting social mobility, particularly in providing places for disadvantaged 2-year-olds, as well as in providing support for children with SEND.
A report from a group of seven maintained nursery schools in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire estimated that the cost to
public sector services if they were to close would be:
- Social care safeguarding £256,068
- Health and well-being £216,000
- Special educational needs and disability £278,550
- Supplementing extended entitlement
This amount exceeds the total supplementary
funding provided to the schools, even without taking account of the direct benefits of outstanding educational quality and system leadership, and suggests that it would be false economy to
axe the supplementary funding for maintained nursery schools.