Campaign call to protect future of region’s early years provision

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Early years facilities face an extreme challenge, campaigners have warned, as governors across the region call for action in the wake of “successive funding cuts”.

Nursery closure rates have jumped 66 per cent since the introduction of the Government’s free 30-hours childcare policy, the National Day Nurseries Association has said, calling for action to ease the pressures.

Now, as governors at seven sites in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire call on politicians to speak up for the maintained sector, they warn the consequences of losing them will be dire for education.

“The issues of chronic underfunding from Government and rising costs are serious concerns for all nurseries,” said Purnima Tanuku, the chief executive of NDNA.

“These need to be addressed at the highest level in order to allow childcare businesses to continue caring for and educating our children.”

In total, seven maintained nurseries in the region have backed a campaign to highlight the financial difficulties they face. A long-term funding commitment must be made to ensure nursery provision as they face a “cliff edge” of uncertainty after 2020, they say.

“Local authority-maintained nursery schools are the jewel in the crown of our education system, yet they face an increasingly uncertain future,” said Coun John Whittle, the chairman of governors at Hornsea Nursery School.

“So much of the work they do is ‘hidden’ or goes unmeasured but, if we were to lose them forever, the pressure on other public sector service would increase dramatically and the life chances of so many children would be drastically reduced.”

Governors represent seven nurseries in Beverley, Bridlington, Hornsea, Hedon, Great Coates and Scartho, as well as McMillan Nursery School.

Helen Hussey, the headteacher at Great Coates Village Nursery School, said: “When we’ve each spoken to our local councillors and members of Parliament individually about the issues faced by local authority-maintained nursery schools, we’ve had mixed responses.

“Whilst people often respond positively about nursery schools, we feel that there’s a lack of understanding about the huge impact that they have on the well-being of children, their families and society as a whole.”

It comes after the Local Government Association, representing local authorities, warned that 61 per cent of councils fear for their maintained nurseries without a funding guarantee.

A Department for Education spokesperson said decisions over funding will be made at the next Spending Review, and added: “Maintained nursery schools make a valuable contribution to improving the lives of some of our most disadvantaged children, alongside wider government support including our free childcare offer for two-year-olds.

“And because they experience costs that other early years providers do not, we are providing local authorities with around £60m a year up until 2020 to protect maintained nursery schools funding.

“We regularly meet with Maintained Nursery School leaders and we continue to work closely together to better understand the value these nurseries offer, so we would urge councils not to make premature decisions on the future of these nurseries as this work continues.”