Campaigners call for end to ‘chronic under-funding’ of nursery schools
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Campaigners are calling for help to rescue cash-strapped nurseries which are facing closure due to 'chronic' under-funding.
The National Education Union (NEU) is asking education secretary Damian Hinds to increase funding for local authority-maintained nursery schools.
According to the union there are 392 nursery schools in England - the majority of which are located in poorer areas - providing valuable access to early education for some 40,000 children.
In Norfolk there are council-maintained nursery schools in King's Lynn, Earlham and Emneth.
The NEU said sustained under-funding had already caused many to close while more could shut if funding is not increased over the longer-term.
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Central government has conceded that funding is insufficient and has allocated money to plug the gaps - but this assistance is due to end in 2020, and the NEU says nursery schools face losing one third of their budget once it does.
Kiri Tunks, NEU joint president, said she had witnessed teachers and parents in tears over the situations at their nurseries.
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"Maintained nurseries help some of the neediest, most vulnerable children and their service is second to none. The idea that we cannot find the money to fund them is a disgrace," she said.
"I have been with upset, angry and despairing teachers who love their job but cannot see how they are going to survive long-term."
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is planning to launch a similar campaign in partnership with charity Early Education in July.
The Department for Education said it was planning to spend around £3.5bn on early education entitlements in 2019 and had provided an extra £24m of supplementary funding to local authorities for their maintained nursery schools to help them through the 2019/20 academic year.
A spokesman added: "We know that maintained nursery schools play a valuable role in supporting some of the most disadvantaged children across the country, and that there was some uncertainty about funding for the next academic year."