In Parliament today, Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, slammed the Government for putting the future of four much-loved Cambridge nursery schools at risk: Brunswick, the Fields, Homerton, and the Colleges. He urged Government ministers to commit to supplementary funding for maintained nurseries as “ pretending that current funding is sustainable is an utter fantasy“.
In a debate on maintained nurseries funding, the Cambridge MP said:
“Pretending that current funding is sustainable is an utter fantasy, no surprise from a Government which seems every day to demonstrate that it lives in a fantasy-world of unicorns. Fine for nursery stories – a hopeless way to not run a country.“
“In my area, in Cambridge, there are four maintained nursery schools: Brunswick, the Fields, Homerton, and the Colleges Nursery School. I know all of them, and whenever I visit, I am struck by the genuine care and dedication of the staff providing excellent early years education; I’m struck by the support and engagement of parents; I love the messy play; but unfortunately I am also struck by the real sense of worry about the future because of the threat that future funding will not be secured.“
“In Cambridgeshire, providers are paid just £4.04 an hour in to provide care. The Department for Education has confirmed that it will not provide an uplift in the hourly funding rate from 2019-2020; nurseries will only receive a 1 penny rise, to £4.05 an hour.
“After April 2020, there has been no guarantee that any supplementary funding will be received in Cambridgeshire; no word from the Government about future funding. So these excellent providers, much loved by parents and children, struggle on, with a sword of Damocles hanging over them as they battle to cover the high costs of running a service in an expensive city, and now are given no certainty over their futures. This will affect hundreds of children, hundreds of families, and of course, many staff.“
“As a concrete example, both Brunswick and the Colleges Nursery School in Cambridge were recently rated Outstanding across the board by OFSTED, with comments reflecting on the nurseries’ ‘high quality care’ ‘inspirational leadership’ and ‘strong teaching’. Parents commented that the nursery has been a ‘fundamental fixed point in our lives’, ‘extremely supportive’ to Special Educational Needs and English as an Additional Language needs, and has helped their children grow in ‘confidence, understanding and care for others’. Are these really the kind of services that this Government want to destroy?“
Nadhim Zahawi MP, the Early Years Education Minister responded:
“The current arrangements of supplementary funding are due to end in March 2020. We need to decide what happens when this supplementary funding ends. Our intention was to look across the evidence, and resolve this question in the Spending Review. No maintained nursery school know it’s funding after March 2020. It’s a difficult place to be, and the anxiety is understandable. We are committed to making evidence-based decisions.“
Mr Zeichner comments: “I am disappointed that the Minister did not end the uncertainty facing parents and staff at these schools. He yet again kicked a decision into the long grass by telling us to wait for the Spending Review. Families, staff and children can’t put their lives on hold. This is irresponsible; we need costed commitments, not empty promises.“