The education secretary has announced additional funding for childcare and early education, together with the continuation of supplementary funding for
maintained nursery schools in 2020-21. Some of the additional investment will go towards an increase in hourly funding for all councils offering 15
hours free childcare for disadvantaged two year olds. The Department for Education (DfE) also says that the ‘vast majority’ of areas providing free 30 hours places for working parents of three and four year olds will receive an increase in the hourly rate. The minimum hourly funding rate will increase so that all local authorities will receive at least £4.38 per hour per child for three and four year olds. In addition, the DfE has announced that a ‘handful’ of areas that have historically received higher levels of funding will have their current funding rates for three and four year olds protected in 2020-21, and the
education secretary, Gavin Williamson, confirmed continuation of supplementary funding for maintained nursery schools for 2020-21. These settings tend to care for higher numbers of disadvantaged children.
In announcing the new funding Mr Williamson was keen to stress the importance of early years education, saying ‘A child’s early education is crucial to their future success which is why we are increasing our hourly funding rates for councils so that they can continue to deliver high quality and free childcare places’. Unions and sector organisations welcomed the additional funding, but also warned about the need to put long-term funding on a sustainable footing. The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) has been part of a national campaign to secure the future of maintained nursery schools.
Other organisations that are part of the campaign include the National Education Union (NEU) and the charity Early Education.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT commented ‘It is good to see the government recognising the critical role maintained nursery schools have to play in the delivery of high-quality early years education. Reassurance that current funding levels will remain in place for another year will bring some short-term relief. But this is not a long-term solution.’ He added ‘Maintained nursery schools are a vital part of the early years landscape, and we are in serious danger of losing them. Single year funding extensions are merely sticking plasters – a long-term funding commitment must be made.’
Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of Early Education, said the announcement was ‘very reassuring’, as ‘nursery schools have felt very close to the cliff edge’. She added ‘Maintained nurseries support some of the most vulnerable children in the country – the idea of those services being cut or lost was an enormous worry. They'll still have very tight budgets but at least they'll have that viable certainty.’