Report reveals ‘grave concerns’ for future of council-run nursery schools
PUBLISHED: 17:12 24 October 2018 | UPDATED: 18:11 24 October 2018
Worries over the future of three Norfolk nursery schools have been revealed in a new report.
The Local Government Association (LGA) says it has found “grave concerns” about future funding for local authority-run nursery schools around the country.
Data released by the body this week showed almost two thirds (61pc) of councils fear maintained nurseries in their area will close unless future funding is protected.
Their closures could mean thousands of children with special needs missing out on essential care and support, the LGA said.
Norfolk County Council is one of 56 local authorities in England with maintained nursery schools, and said it was “eagerly awaiting” a government decision on funding for the sector, which would affect its three nursery schools in King’s Lynn, Norwich and Emneth.
More than half (52pc) of councils with maintained nursery schools told the LGA that losing funding would result in reduced support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and as many said it would mean reduced support for disadvantaged children.
There are currently 397 maintained nurseries in England, which have received £110m in supplementary funding since 2017.
A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: “We know our three nursery schools provide a very valuable service in Norwich, Emneth and King’s Lynn. They deliver ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ early years education to pre-school children who live in less advantaged parts of our county, giving them a great start in their educational careers and we are committed to continuing to provide this.
“We continue to eagerly await a government decision on the future funding arrangements for maintained nurseries.”
With the Budget approaching, the LGA is calling on government to address the under-funding of SEND provision.
This week a petition with more than 38,000 signatures calling for urgent increased funding for special educational needs was handed in to the Department for Education.
Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Children with additional needs should have exactly the same access to early education as every other child.”
He also urged councils not to make “premature” decisions on the future of maintained nurseries.