Norfolk state nursery schools facing Covid funding uncertainty

A national survey of maintained nursery schools found a third were cutting staffing and services to balance their books.

A national survey of maintained nursery schools found a third were cutting staffing and services to balance their books. - Credit: PA

Norfolk’s state nursery schools are facing budget pressures amid extra coronavirus costs and uncertainty over future government funding.

A national survey of maintained nursery schools – which offer pre-school provision through local authorities – found a third were cutting staffing and services to balance their books as a result of lost income and additional Covid costs.

Unlike some other schools, maintained nursery schools were not eligible for exceptional cost funding for Covid from the government and so have had to bear the brunt of these costs themselves. 

They were also not eligible for some government schemes which benefited private providers in the sector such as the business rates holiday or business loans.

Cheryl Kirby, headteacher at King’s Lynn Nursery School, one of the three maintained nursery schools in Norfolk, said: “We were told we weren’t eligible to apply for the additional Covid costs despite the first lockdown being not only open but having some older children from other schools. We did feel let down that wasn’t noted.”


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The survey found almost half of the UK’s 200 maintained nurseries across 75 local authorities will be running deficits for the financial year.

Despite ongoing promises to find a long-term funding solution, maintained nurseries, including in Norwich and Emneth, still have no clear picture of what their funding will look like beyond next spring.

Nursery school

State nursery schools are facing budget pressures from extra coronavirus costs and uncertainty over future government funding. - Credit: PA

Ms Kirby said: “Unfortunately maintained nurseries have been stuck in this position for several years. We want to be able to plan for five year but only get funding for the next year.

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“That makes it very difficult in terms of trying to recruit staff.”

Nurseries and childcare centres have found themselves on the frontline of the pandemic incurring extra costs to stay open

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said it did not believe the pandemic has had a significant detrimental impact on the finances of our maintained nurseries in comparison to other types of Early Years provision.

“We have provided significant support to all Early Years providers throughout the pandemic, including maintained nurseries,” they added.

“This has included making full use of the flexibilities made to conditions of Early Years funding from central government. 

“We have also continued to fund places in early years settings when children have been unable to attend because of the pandemic.”

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