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Public sector nursery provision

Volume 646: debated on Tuesday 4 September 2018

The petition of residents of Salford,

Declares that public sector nurseries consistently provide above-average quality of provision, provide superior levels of school-ready pupils, Special Educational Need provision and services to areas of high deprivation; further that in comparison to the private sector, public sector nurseries provide more accurate tracking information to schools, more affordable services and a better standard of early education; further that new conditions imposed by the Department for Education have thrown many nurseries and Early Years services across the country into financial peril, both in the public and private sector; further that local authorities are now unable to use the vast majority of the Dedicated Schools Grant for their own Early Years provisions; and further notes that the £55 million fund set aside to support Maintained Nursery Schools is not available for Local Authority nurseries which are not headed up by a head-teacher and which lack trained teaching staff.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to do all in its power to value and to support the continuation of public sector nursery provision, including reversing the changes to the Dedicated Schools Grant and changing the way that the £55 million supplementary funding for Maintained Nursery Schools is used to make available to all Local Authority nurseries.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Barbara Keeley, Official Report, 17 July 2018; Vol. 645, c. 374.]


Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi):

The Government are spending more on childcare support than any other Government—around £6 billion a year by 2019-20. This includes an additional £1 billion a year to deliver the childcare entitlements. Our funding rates are based on evidence from our “Review of Childcare Costs”, which was described as “thorough and wide ranging” by the National Audit Office.

The Government also introduced the Early Years National Funding Formula (EYNFF) to allocate their record investment fairly and transparently and ensure that early years providers can deliver free childcare on a sustainable and high-quality basis. Local authorities are also required to pass through 95% of early years funding directly to providers to ensure it reaches the frontline. The Government consulted extensively prior to introducing the EYNFF and received broad consensus on the reforms they introduced (including the 95% pass through).

The Government’s 30 hours programme is rolling out successfully with more than 340,000 children aged three and four years old benefiting from a 30 hours place throughout the first year of delivery. This is saving families up to £5,000 per year in total and making it easier for them to work and earn more in the years before their children start school.

It is for Salford City Council to decide how best to fund their providers to meet their duty to provide sufficient places to meet parental demand. We are pleased that there are no reports of 30 hours sufficiency issues in the Salford City local authority area.

All authorities have the option of requesting flexibility around the 95% passthrough requirement and the Government would be willing to consider such an application from Salford City Council for the 2019-20 financial year.

With regard to Maintained Nursery Schools, they are required to employ a qualified teacher and a headteacher, as well as to be constituted as a school, which means they typically incur higher costs than other types of early years providers that are not required to meet these obligations. In recognition of these requirements, we are providing supplementary funding to protect existing Maintained Nursery School funding rates until 2019-20.

The Government have also had extensive discussions with Salford City Council. On 16 May 2018, I met Salford MPs, the Mayor of Salford, and representatives from Unison, parents and staff to discuss five of Salford’s council-maintained nurseries. I have also met Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester Combined Authority, to discuss the same matter. Alongside these meetings, DfE officials have had ongoing constructive communication with council officers to discuss the options being explored locally and to provide advice and support.

We are happy to continue this dialogue with local authority officers as they consider the options available to them.