At this week’s full County Council meeting, I lodged the following question, which received a written reply:
- Question from Councillor Susan van de Ven
On Monday 29th June 2020 in an online public meeting organised by the National Association of Headteachers, the National
Education Union and Early Education, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, Vicky Ford MP, told
an audience of teachers, support staff and parents that she strongly supported the continuation of the provision that maintained
nursery schools deliver across England. She said that she was arguing strongly for the Treasury to provide the funding required to
save nursery schools from the threat of closure that currently exists from April 2021 when the current funding arrangements are
scheduled to end. The minister recognised the enhanced education and support for vulnerable children and families that is
provided by maintained nurseries.
However, despite the government’s clearly stated public position being that they wish to see maintained nurseries remain open to
provide the high quality education they currently provide, Cambridgeshire County Council is choosing to pursue plans for the
closure of the seven existing maintained nursery schools. The Department for Education has publicly stated, through the relevant
minister, that it expects to find a solution to keep the schools open. It is therefore unclear why the council is choosing to pursue
such an aggressive approach to forcing the closure of the seven nursery schools in the county.
Would the council leader care to explain why Cambridgeshire is choosing to seek to close down this exceptional provision that
supports so many children and families in the face of government plans to find a way to save the provision with funding as stated by
the Minister for Children and Families?
Response from Councillor Simon Bywater, Chairman of Children and Young People Committee:
Thank you for highlighting this critical area. Cambridgeshire has a rich history in supporting its nursery schools and this
commitment remains. There are however financial concerns as a subsidy paid by the government to support nursery schools was
due to be withdrawn. We made representation to the Department for Education on this last year including a letter from the Leader
of the council to the Secretary of State for Education to ask for this funding to be mainstreamed. A paper was brought to the
Children and Young People Committee on the 12th July 2019 outlining the challenges and how we would look to maintain this
provision if this funding ended. We have worked with Heads and Governors on this review. We have no funding stream to subside
the loss of the £1.1m the subsidy currently brings. However in education funding announcements in the autumn, the government
agreed to continue to fund this subsidy for a further year and we have put on hold any plans to review the nursery schools until we have more information on the future funding. We hope the government will make a long term financial commitment to Nursery schools. Officers have not followed an aggressive approach to forcing their closure, quite the opposite and there are no plans to close them. I kindly request the councillor supports our challenge to government to sustain funding for this essential provision.