Our nurs­ery schools ‘the low­est funded in coun­try’

Accrington Observer - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - Ac­cringtonob­[email protected]­media.co.uk @Ac­cring­tonNews

PAUL FAULKER

AN Ac­cring­ton head­teacher ap­pealed to a com­mit­tee for sup­port af­ter it heard our nurs­ery schools re­ceive the low­est level of gov­ern­ment fund­ing any­where in the coun­try.

All lo­cal au­thor­ity-run nurs­eries in Lan­cashire - as well as pri­vate or vol­un­tary op­er­a­tors - get £4.30 for ev­ery hour they have a child in their care, al­most half the rate in some other parts of Eng­land.

An­drew Good, Lan­cashire County Coun­cil’s head of school fi­nance, told the ed­u­ca­tion scru­tiny com­mit­tee that the dis­crep­ancy could not be ex­plained by cost vari­a­tions across the coun­try.

“We don’t know what fac­tors they use in cen­tral gov­ern­ment to al­lo­cate nurs­ery funds,” Mr Good said.

The meet­ing heard that pri­vate providers in the county felt that the level should ac­tu­ally be set at £6.10. The money is also used to cover the cost of the free child­care en­ti­tle­ments for three to fouryear-olds.

Mem­bers were told that 24 of the county’s main­tained nurs­eries were closely col­lab­o­rat­ing in a bid to make the ser­vices they pro­vide sus­tain­able. Eight have been brought “back from the brink” from fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties.

Sacha Walker-Byrne, head­teacher of Ac­cring­ton’s Fair­field Nurs­ery, told the meet­ing there would be a “hid­den rip­ple ef­fect” on the wider fam­ily sup­port work which coun­cil-run nurs­eries pro­vide should any of them be forced to close. And she ap­pealed to mem­bers to pro­vide a “state­ment of in­tent that you’re proud of us and that we are im­por­tant to you”.

The com­mit­tee re­solved to put a mo­tion be­fore full coun­cil out­lin­ing the au­thor­ity’s sup­port for the main­tained nurs­ery sec­tor and any con­cerns over fund­ing.

The De­part­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion said lo­cal coun­cils are re­spon­si­ble for set­ting rates in con­sul­ta­tion with the nurs­ery sec­tor. It added: “This gov­ern­ment has made its com­mit­ment to high qual­ity early years pro­vi­sion very clear. By 2020, we will be spend­ing around £6 bil on child­care sup­port - a record amount - which in­cludes around £3.5 bil which we plan to spend this year on our free early ed­u­ca­tion en­ti­tle­ments.

“As a re­sult of our Early Years Na­tional Fund­ing For­mula, the to­tal na­tional av­er­age hourly fund­ing rate to lo­cal au­thor­i­ties for three- and four-year-olds in­creased from £4.56 to nearly £5 and all lo­cal au­thor­i­ties saw seven per cent in­creases in their fund­ing rates for two-year-olds.”

An Ac­cring­ton head­teacher has ap­pealed for more sup­port for our nurs­eries

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