Nursery schools and children's centres are reaching crisis point in Oxford with their budgets being driven into deficit as Children’s Centre funding is withdrawn.
Conservative proposals for changes to Early Years Funding Formula, which closed for consultation at the end of September, are set to slash nursery school funding, sinking them further into crisis. The four Maintained Nurseries in the city received an average of £5.90 an hour in 2015-16. But under the government’s Early Years National Funding Formula, this would drop to between £4.02 - £4.30 an hour in 2017-18. This amounts to up to a 32% cut in the hourly rate paid by the state for each child’s education.
In her first speech at Full Council, new Councillor Marie Tidball said: “Tory government plans to drastically change the Early Years National funding formula will sabotage the education opportunities for nursery aged-children: this is selective segregation for the under-fives rather than the under-elevens.
While the Tories publicly obsess about Grammar Schools, May’s government have quietly announced deeply damaging changes to Early Years funding for state-funded nurseries. We should make no mistake about their impact. The government plans to slash funding for three and four year olds’ education, putting in jeopardy Nursery education of our children in Oxford.”
Unlike private businesses, state-funded Nurseries have statutory responsibilities that have not been taken into account in this funding formula. The education they provide is exceptional, with 97% of the 400 Maintained Nurseries in are regarded as excellent or outstanding (Early Education, 2015). Councillor Tidball continued:
“As a child, I started my own education in a Maintained Nursery school in the North of England. They play a powerful role in achieving social mobility by closing the education gap and getting kids – no matter what their background - school ready. That’s why we are calling on our local MPs to stand-up for Oxford’s Maintained Nurseries and oppose these reductions.”
MP for Oxford East Andrew Smith said: “I will fight the government’s short-sighted proposals. The Chancellor splashed £60 million on Grammar Schools in the Autumn Statement, leaving Nurseries out in the cold. With other concerned MPs I had written to Early Years Minister Caroline Dineneage MP urging the government to give more support to nurseries. Evidence shows that children attending state nurseries make the most progress and continue to accelerate in attainment through primary school.
"The government have only committed in filling the gap left by their Funding Formula for a three-year period. I am working closely with the Shadow Minister for Nursery Schools, Tulip Sidiqq MP and the All-Party Parliamentary Group to win secure funding.”
Research has shown that Nursery schools lead the way with innovations in practice for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and “progress in early years for children from low income backgrounds depends on attendance in the highest quality settings”.
Lucy Powell MP, Chair of The All Party Parliamentary Group on Nursery Schools and Nursery Classes has also raised the alarm that the Government’s Early Years National Funding Formula proposals “threatens the future viability of these exceptional institutions”.