Councillors on Lancashire County Council have called in the decision to go out to consultation regarding the future funding of Maintained Nurseries that serve local communities right across Lancashire.
Cllr John Fillis, Labour Deputy Leader, said “The implications of nursery closures are so significant that, whilst consulting and working with nurseries on their future is welcomed, the decision and action taken does not identify adequate funding to ensure that all Nurseries are maintained until April 2021 or until the Government has identified the future of the School Supplementary Grant Status.
“A contingency fund of £1million should have been included to ensure viability until clarity on the government’s intentions is received, and also in order to ensure that there is financial capacity to allow a full range of options to be considered at that future point.
“Without this, the decision is not proportionate to the issue. Nurseries will close without this cover.”
The quality of provision in Lancashire’s maintained nursery schools is high with 23 of the 24 judged to be good or better (96%).
The number of children accessing early education provision in a Lancashire maintained nursery school is 2,519 (458 two year olds and 2061 three/four year olds). This equates to 10.4% of the total number of children accessing early education provision across the whole sector.
It has been recognised by the Government that the Early Years National Funding Formula, introduced in 2017, does not adequately cover the costs of delivery in maintained nursery schools. There has been significant uncertainty around the future of this funding but the Department for Education has recently confirmed the funding will be extended for the 2020-21 financial year.
Nationally, the Maintained Nursery Schools supplementary grant represents approximately a third of the total Maintained Nursery School budget and without this supplementary funding, all of Lancashire’s maintained nursery schools would cease to be financially viable in their current form. Around 50% of Lancashire’s 24 maintained nursery schools are currently under significant financial stress, with a small number being, or close to being, financially unviable.
Cllr John Fillis said “These nurseries provide an excellent start for children and a massive investment in their futures and that of our country. That is why the government needs to fund them properly. We have offered to work right across the political spectrum and with other councils and organisations in order to get this right. It’s the communities that count and we should all be working together to support them.”