Memorandum submitted by Mcmillan Children's Centre and Nursery School

The Early Years Funding Formula in Hull and its impact on Nursery Schools

1. The DCFS has required Local Authorities in England to create a new funding formula for all 3 and 4 year old children in their areas, which is due to be introduced from April 2010. The formula devised by the Local Authority in Hull significantly reduces funding to the three Nursery Schools in Hull, all of which are also Children's Centres, due to their situation in some of the most deprived areas of Hull and of the country.

2. At McMillan Nursery School, the proposed new funding formula in Hull provides approx. 100,000 LESS funding per annum compared to the previous funding formula - a reduction of approximately 20%. Over all three schools the deficit is approx. 335,000 (approx 26% of the total budget)

3. The Nursery Schools and the Local Authority have been looking at the implications for the three schools and seeking options to try to save Nursery Schools in Hull in some form, but the schools have been told that 'no additional funding will be available', which means that reduction in capacity at the schools and consequent staffing reductions will be inevitable.

Context : Deprivation and Needs

4. McMillan is a Children's Centre based on a large Nursery School (105 Full time equivalent places). The reach area for McMillan Children's Centre has 947 children under five within it.

5. The Nursery Schools in Hull are all situated in areas of significant deprivation. At McMillan, which serves a large council estate in North Hull, 80% of children are in the 30% most deprived and the remainder are in the 70% most deprived.

6. McMillan regularly has a significant proportion of children with high levels of Special Educational Needs (Statements or Early Years Action Plus : 16% in 08; 14% in 09), and works closely with a range of multi-agency professionals to support these children and their parents, some of whom have been unable to find appropriate provision elsewhere.

7. McMillan serves an area which has a wide range of social problems, and is co-located with the North Hull Family Resource Centre (Social Services team for North Hull). Social Workers often refer children into the childcare provision at McMillan. In Summer 2009 21.4% of McMillan children were identified as having either current or past involvement with Social Services or Family Support.

 

8. Traditionally Nursery Schools had offered full-time places to younger children before they moved into Primary Schools, because of the needs of children and families in these areas, to try to improve Personal Social and Emotional outcomes for children. Last year Hull LA advised that Nursery Schools should cease to offer additional (full-time) placements to children. This has resulted in reduced occupancy of places in Nursery Schools.

 

9. There has also been a move to encourage all children to move to Reception Classes in Primary schools from September, rather than remaining full-time at Nursery School settings until the term before their fifth birthday as was traditional. While some parents have exercised their right to keep children at Nursery School in the Reception year, this has also impacted on occupancy.

 

10. It may not be coincidental that Early Years Foundation Stage Profile results in 2009 indicate reduced attainment in Emotional Development for children who have attended McMillan, and citywide, as compared to previous years.

Potential Impacts

Quality in Practice

11. McMillan has a highly qualified, very experienced and committed team. The staff ethos is positive, holistic, caring and dedicated to developing and delivering world-class teaching and learning to children and families who are some of the most deprived in the country. McMillan was graded 'Good' overall with many 'Outstanding' features at Ofsted's last visit.

12. The development of a creative, responsive curriculum which supports children's individual needs and learning by integrating observation, assessment, planning and recording of progress has been a key focus at McMillan in recent years, and has been recognised by local, regional , national and international visitors, including researchers from a range of higher education institutions.

13. Staffing reductions will lead to a potential loss of quality in provision for children and families, as well as a reduction of the schools ability to support those families most in need through the wider provision of the Children's Centre offer, and to work at developing innovative practice, and to offer training opportunities to practitioners from other Hull Early Years settings.

Innovation, Research and Development

14. All three nursery schools have been involved in innovative work with a range of partners which has subsequently been taken up by the Local Authority and offered citywide.

15. In 2008, McMillan was identified by the Arts Council/Creative Partnerships as a 'School of Creativity' and 'one of the 30 most creative schools in the country' - the only School of Creativity in Hull, and one of only three Nursery Schools in the first cohort of Schools of Creativity in England. This was as a result of staff and artists working together to develop a more creative curriculum, and will attract 60,000 of additional funding into North Hull to support the work. The reduction in funding and therefore staffing capacity will threaten the ability of the school to pursue this work.

16. McMillan has a history of developing reflective practice through research and enquiry relationships. Two Doctorate level researchers have based much of their work at McMillan (Hull Uni, Sheffield Uni), and work undertaken in partnership between staff and researchers (Hull Uni., York St John Uni, Nottingham Uni) has led to various publications as well as impact on practice at McMillan and beyond.

17. McMillan is a Support and Verification Centre for the GTC Teacher Learning Academy, which promotes and supports research and enquiry projects as an effective means of continuing professional development for teachers.

18. Engaging in innovation, research and development, and offering Professional Development opportunities to try to deepen reflective practice & develop innovation across the local area is a key role of Nursery Schools, and something McMillan has long been involved with in Hull. This role will be very hard to sustain in the face of funding reductions. This in turn means that high quality practitioners with interests in these areas are likely to end up working elsewhere, and the interactive relationship between research & practice will become even harder to sustain - it is in Nursery School settings that high quality staff can 'translate' research findings into meaningful practice in context, and disseminate this to other practitioners in other types of setting.

Training and Professional Development in Hull

 

19. Over the past 4 years, McMillan has delivered training and professional development opportunities to over 300 Hull practitioners from the maintained and non-maintained sectors.

20. McMillan also welcomes students and trainees on placement, and delivers training on Early Years issues. These students come from a wide range of backgrounds, including Postgraduate Certificate in Education, Graduate Teacher Programme, National Vocational Qualifications, work placements etc.

21. McMillan staff are also regularly asked to deliver training in schools and to present and lead workshops at conferences etc.

SEN and Inclusion

22. Should the proposed new funding arrangements be implemented, there will be a profound threat to McMillan's unique Nurture Group provision (judged outstanding by OFSTED) which offers personalised support for inclusion of children with higher level SEN, and a forum for co-ordinated multi-agency support for each child and family.

23. This provision has operated for 6 years, funded through the Nursery School's SEN block funding which is lost under the new formula. Unless alternative funding can be found, the closure of this provision would be a huge loss to children and families in Hull, and a loss to professionals from agencies working to support those children and families.

Summary

24. The massive reduction of funding to Hull Nursery Schools through the proposed new formula, a process which appears to be reflected across the country, threatens the viability of the Nursery Schools in Hull, and has a huge negative impact on provision for children and families in some of the most deprived areas of Hull and of the country.

25. The current role and future potential of Nursery schools as leaders in innovation, research, training and high quality reflective practice is also threatened and therefore the future of Early Years development in Hull.

November 2009