Memorandum submitted by Kathryn Solly, Chelsea Open Air Nursery School and Children's Centre



1. Higher rate - According to the Guidance local authorities can pay a MNS a higher rate (per child, per hour) than it pays to other providers. The single funding formula should be based upon the same principles for funding but not necessarily the same rates of funding.  We expect to see differences in rates as a result of unavoidable cost differences.  


      The cost analysis for MNSs has made transparent the higher costs of this type of provision, which has statutory costs that are higher than for other providers:

the requirement for a Head Teacher (Head of Centre) to lead the school

teachers are required and must be paid using the teacher pay scales

non teaching staff must be paid using local authority pay scales (under single status) and not the traditional lower wages of the private sector. 

support staff costs include on costs e.g. the local government pension scheme is more expensive than private alternatives

RBKC nursery schools' premises need to be paid for. 

the Ofsted inspections carried out on MNSs and nursery classes are significantly more stringent.

the Data collection required by statute and additional information required by RBKC of MNSs and nursery classes is not required of the PVI sector

MNSs are stand alone, located in areas of high need and do not enjoy economies of scale

2. Participation - The guidance states that any MNS that is of good quality and full or nearly full (85-90% full) should not see a significant reduction in funding. All 4 RBKC MNSs are 100% full.

3.  Deprivation and Quality Factors - MNSs are deliberately located in areas of high deprivation and need and therefore should attract higher levels of funding through a combination of a basic entitlement and the mandatory deprivation supplement.  Although including a quality supplement is not mandatory, quality should be incentivised through local formulas. MNSs are the borough's most "outstanding" sector. (evidence: recent "outstanding" Ofsted judgements, comparative data with the borough's nursery classes and SIA judgements on "value added").


4. LAs are permitted to include a Sufficiency/Sustainability Factor - Sustainability is an issue for nursery schools so a factor that supports sustainability should be included.

5. Additional Hours / Full-time places - RBKC needs to continue to fund full time nursery education. Reduction in provision will impact negatively on children and their preparation for primary school, reduce choice and be extremely unpopular with parents.

6. The Presumption Against Closure of MNS has not changed. It is clearly set out in statutory guidance. "This means that Local Authorities should make every effort to enable Maintained Nursery Schools to continue to operate effectively" (Government's supplementary guidance to Dawn Primarolo's letter to directors of Children's Services in  boroughs with MNSs)

Maintained nursery schools are centres of concentrated expertise.

In addition to the high calibre education and care they provide for 3 and 4 years olds, they also:

have a strong, well documented history of inspirational leadership, which produces highly motivated early years practitioners. Consequently, children in nursery schools make remarkable progress.

provide excellent value for money. Early intervention, including for those children with SEN, provides benefits for children, families and society in general.

provide continuing professional development for colleagues in practice across all sectors.

provide a rolling programme of placements for Early Years students from a wide range of disciplines (teachers, nursery officers, social workers, social care workers, educational psychologists, child minders.

provide well established and popular family learning programmes to support parents and encourage their return to study/work.

External evaluations recognise and celebrate the exemplary role that MNSs play in this borough.



Does it matter if Chelsea Open Air Nursery School and Children's Centre (COA) Closes?



The government has required every local authority to devise a single funding formula to govern the distribution of funds to all providers of early years education within its borough. Implementation will be in April 2010.  Kensington and Chelsea's proposed interpretation of this legislation will result in funding cuts so drastic for COA that it will be starved of resources and forced to close within three years.


Kensington and Chelsea believe the closure of COA would result in cost savings.  A presumption that fails to calculate the cost of providing education, support and care for all the children, families and others that COA currently provides for.


What happens to the children and families COA supports?

Well, nothing.


COA has 60 children on the register and, with the children's centre, touches the lives of 800 families. COA nurtures a higher than average number of special needs children to their full potential.  COA caters for many children whose first language is not English. COA provides a fantastic education to many vulnerable children whose family life is challenging due to their financial or emotional circumstances.  (The Cremorne ward that COA services is an area of 20% social and economic deprivation). COA helps the gifted, able and talented to flourish.


How far does the influence of COA reach?

COA is a "teaching school within a school" offering training visits, research, courses, professional development, mentoring, coaching and public speaking.  Closure of COA would stop any contribution to the improvement of other schools and settings, a contribution that ultimately affects the future success of many other young children.


Why is Chelsea Open Air so special?

COA is esteemed locally; it is over subscribed 4:1.  It is internationally recognised for its expertise in outdoor play and learning, resulting in many overseas visitors each year.  Ofsted has deemed COA to be "outstanding" and it holds an 'Inclusion Quality Mark', 'Basic Skills Quality Mark' , 'Excellence in Work Related Learning' and 'Investors in People' awards.  COA would seem to epitomise Kensington and Chelsea's stated want for "outstanding services so that Kensington and Chelsea is a truly great place for children and young people to live and learn". Surely COA is too special to be allowed just to fade and ultimately close?


Does the Government want to see Chelsea Open Air close?

No. Kensington and Chelsea's proposed funding formula flies in the face of the governments stated wishes as expressed by the  Right Honorable Dawn Primarolo in a  letter to Directors of Children's Services on 28th October 2009: "I am clear that the single funding formula should not be used as a vehicle to close, or close by strangulation, good quality nursery school provision. The presumption against closure of nursery schools remains, even if the method of funding them is changing".


What can you do?

If the closure of COA matters then there is time to force Kensington and Chelsea to rethink how they allocate their funding for the early years going forward.  The challenge is to make Kensington and Chelsea see that COA does really matter for its reach is broad, wide and pervading.


November 2009