Extra free childcare 'threatening nursery schools'

Hundreds of nursery schools could close if the government presses ahead with plans to offer 30 hours a week of free childcare, the NAHT has warned.

In 2017, free care for three-and four-year-olds is set to rise from 15 to 30 hours a week in term-time, with ministers saying the extra funding will provide stability for nursery schools.

Carrying out analysis with Early Education, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has said that pre-schools will not cope financially after a planned two-year package of taxpayer support ends.

The analysis found that local authority areas with the highest number of nurseries - including Birmingham, Lancashire and Hertfordshire - would see huge cuts in funding if the proposal to double the current 15 hours of free time was introduced.

For example, nursery schools in Birmingham received an average of £8.36 an hour in 2015-16, which would fall to £4.44 an hour in 2017-18 - if no additional funding were made available - a decrease of £3.92.

Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary, said: “The Department for Education's [DfE] own data shows that any funding approach that does not reflect these costs on an ongoing basis will be a body blow for early years education in nursery schools.

"There is additional funding available, but only for two years. After that point, England's nursery schools will cease to be financially viable. The 30 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.

"In contrast to grammar schools, high-quality nursery education is a proven method of helping the most disadvantaged families. It is inexplicable that a government serious about social mobility would focus on one at the expense of the other."