State-run nurseries must not be lost, say MPs

24 March 2010

New funding arrangements for early years education and care must be implemented in a way that ensures state-run nursery schools do not lose out, concludes the Children, Schools and Families Committee in a report published today.

The quality of education and care offered by maintained nursery schools sets the standard for others to follow, and the Committee warns it would be disastrous if such provision were to be lost as a result of the new funding structure.

Committee Chair, Barry Sheerman MP, said:

"It would be irresponsible to put at risk the exceptional standard of care evident in so many maintained nurseries. The new funding formula must not be allowed to do this. The Government’s overall concept is sound and is undeniably more transparent than the existing method. It also has the potential to reward quality, which is what matters most of all.

"However, more work must be done to assist local authorities struggling with the complexities of the new system."

Under the new plans, a supplement to recognise high quality provision is available and the Committee was astonished to learn that many local authorities had failed to take this up. It recommends that a quality supplement should be made mandatory.

The Government has deferred full implementation of the formula until April 2011, which the Committee strongly supports. The year’s delay should be used to review all local formulae with a view to settling nerves and restoring stability.

The Committee is concerned that the distinction between early years and primary education is being blurred following the implementation of Sir Jim Rose’s proposals to encourage entry to primary school in the September after a child’s fourth birthday. The Committee recommends consideration by the Government of the merits of a unified funding system for children aged 2 to 11 years.

Image: iStockphoto

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