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MP's worries over future for nurseries as cutbacks loom.

Byline: JONATHAN WALKER Political Editor

NORTH East nursery schools could be forced to close because of a funding crisis, headteachers have warned.

And it means the Government's plan to offer free childcare may be "doomed before it even gets started".

The National Association of Headteachers said hundreds of nursery schools, particularly those in poorer areas, would be forced to close if the government doesn't adjust its proposals.

It named Durham as one of four areas set to be hardest hit.

Nurseries in other parts of the North East are also under threat and the head of one Gateshead nursery warned it was at risk.

The threat comes from the Government's promise to provide 30 hours of free childcare to working parents of children aged three and four. While the Government is providing funding for two years, there is no guarantee after that - which means nursery schools would have to meet the cost.

But many will be unable to cope, particularly as they already face cuts in funding from local councils.

The National Association of Headteachers says Durham nursery schools face massive cuts with funding per hour cut by more than a third.

And Denise Henry, head teacher at Bensham Grove Community Nursery School in Gateshead, warned her school's financial sustainability would be at risk. She said: "Bensham Grove Community Nursery School is the only maintained nursery school in Gateshead. A large proportion of our children are from disadvantaged backgrounds and we work closely with local families.

"We are very concerned about the new early years funding plans, and the impact they will have upon children and their parents or carers. Whilst the government has recognised the high quality provided by nursery schools and allocated supplementary funding to support them, this is only for two years.

"Supplementary funding is essential long term for nursery schools to meet the legal requirements of a school. The supplementary funding amount illustrated in the consultations also would result in a significant decrease in our budget.

"These changes therefore put the sustainability of our school at risk."

Pat Glass, Labour MP for North West Durham, is to raise concerns in the Commons.

She said: "The very fact that we have these nursery schools in the most deprived areas gives these kids a much better chance.

"Because we know that the brightest children from the least well-off homes start to fall behind at about 19 months. And nursery schools make the difference.

"So this yet another example of the Government saying we need to learn from the best in the world, but when we have the best in the world they are prepared to let it go. It is incredibly sad that we are prepared to let this happen." Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle North and a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Nursery Schools and Nursery Classes. said: "Nursery schools provide really high quality early years education, helping young children - often from areas of deprivation - get the best possible start in life. I know from Newburn Manor Nursery School in my own constituency just how important their work is."

Russell Hobby, of the National Association of Headteachers, said: "There is additional funding available, but only for two years. After that point, England's nursery schools will cease to be financially viable.

"The thirty hours offer will be doomed before it even gets started, additional places won't materialise and current places will be lost as nursery schools across England close their doors for good. The government has the data - it must rethink before thousands of families, many in the poorest areas of the country, are left high and dry."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Our proposals for supplementary funding, which takes account of maintained nursery schools' current funding rates, are for at least two years.

"This extra funding will provide stability for nursery schools, which make a valuable contribution to improving the lives of some of our most disadvantaged children.

"The funding is part of our record investment in early years - PS6 billion per year by 2020."


MP Pat Glass fears for the sustainability of nurseries in her Durham constituency
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 23, 2016
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