One of my major campaign priorities has been ensuring that all state nurseries and schools in Bristol West receive fair funding for the excellent work that they do. And I have been particularly concerned that the government’s funding plans for state maintained nurseries – which provide vital and high-quality childcare for so many families in Bristol – are far from adequate. That’s why I recently wrote to the Department for Education, highlighting the funding pressures that nursery headteachers have spoken to me about. And I recently joined Labour MPs from across the country to present petitions in Parliament on behalf of nurseries calling for more funding to meet their needs (see the video at the bottom of this post).
So I’m delighted that this campaigning has partly paid off, as the government announced on Thursday that they would be introducing additional funding of approximately £24 million to ensure state-run nurseries can be funded until the end of the 2019-20 academic year. I want to congratulate everyone who has been involved in this campaign – from schoolteachers to parents – who have helped bring about this announcement. This money provides more financial certainty for nurseries until the government reviews public spending levels later in the Spring.
While I’m delighted that this will give Bristol’s nurseries a little more funding to be able to plan effectively, I’m aware that there is more that the government need to do to put nurseries on a stable financial footing. The amount that the government will give to local authorities to fund nurseries is still uncertain beyond 2020, and this uncertainty makes it impossible for nursery heads to plan ahead, and to work out how many places they are able to offer to local children. I’m particularly concerned that the current funding settlements on offer don’t match the demand for additional support for children with special educational needs and disabilities, or children for whom English is their second language.
The government needs to introduce a long-term sustainable funding plan for nurseries, and I’ll continue to campaign for this so that all children in Bristol can benefit from high-quality and affordable early years education.