Another packed meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Nursery Schools and Nursery Classes heard yesterday from Early Years and Childcare Minister, Sam Gyimah that maintained nursery schools were the “jewels in the crown” of the early years system and he said the government was committed to ensuring that they were able to continue their work supporting the roll out of key policies including the life chances agenda and the 30 hours entitlement.
He confirmed that government was also committed to exploring the structural options that would give maintained nursery schools the same freedoms as other schools to become academies, as well as responding to the issue of funding. With the government set to become the majority purchaser of early years provision under the 30 hours reforms, he stressed that the government had a keen interest in the quality of provision.
The APPG also heard from current shadow Education Minister Angela Rayner, as well as her predecessor Lucy Powell, and fellow Labour MP Jess Philips, who all endorsed the minister’s statement about the vital role of maintained nursery schools in providing excellent outcomes for all children, but in particular for supporting the most vulnerable children and children with SEND.
Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the NAHT, commented on the need to invert the current funding pyramid which saw the most money go to higher education and the least to the early years. He reminded MPs that high quality staff are more expensive, and that maintained nursery schools must be funded as schools to recognise this. He called for maintained nursery schools to have the option to become academies, for Early Years Teachers to have the same status as QTS, and for the Early Years Pupil Premium to be raised to the same level as the schools pupil premium.
The meeting also heard from member of the Education Select Committee, Ian Mearns that he hoped to put the issues raised during the APPG on the select committee’s agenda for the autumn.
The key calls to action from the meeting were for government to:
- recognise that maintained nursery schools are schools, and guarantee maintained nursery schools receive a viable funding rate via a Schools Block lump sum component (comparable to ensuring payment of sparsity funding to rural schools)
- revive and renew the Presumption Against Closure with a “double lock” requiring agreement from local authority and government before any closures
- give maintained nursery schools the freedom to convert to academy status either alone or as part of a MAT with other nursery schools, or other parts of the school sector.