Memorandum submitted by Brentwood Early Years Centre
1. We are a maintained Wirral Local Authority Nursery School, located in an area of high social deprivation, and with high levels of social mobility. |We are not attached to a Children's Centre. The proposed formula will impact severely on our funding, resulting in a deficit 2010-11 of £33,341, and for 2011-12, a predicted deficit of £132,878. From these figures, sustainability would be highly unlikely, even after the impact of staffing reductions. The DCSF makes reference to 'smoothing cliff edges' however, this categorically leaves us on a cliff edge.
2. We firmly believe that there is a flaw in Wirral's design of the funding formula; a quality supplement has not been built in to recognise the unique nature of nursery schools such as ours. As a Nursery school, there is little evidence that our specific, specialised costs are reflected in the new funding formula.
3. Wirral, despite offering a 'consultation,' has not effectively engaged with us to discuss the full implications of the formula. The DCSF guidance has been interpreted too simplistically, failing to factor in the distinctive nature of nursery schools. The findings of pilot LAs support a more flexible formula for nursery schools. The current Implementation Guidance states that the EYSFF must support a 'mixed market.' Our existence in under severe threat as Wirral LA's funding formula is put into place; we cannot see how the almost inevitable closure of the only LA Nursery School in our community can reflect this core principal of a 'mixed market'.
4. Although we have been offered additional funding, it is largely based upon us obtaining 80% occupancy. Whilst appearing to be a healthy incentive, we have three admission points during the year, and only obtain full occupancy in the summer term: therefore this 'carrot' will prove highly unrealistic, if not unachievable.
5. The DSCF recognises quality and a culture of continuous improvement, yet the funding formula does not reflect this commitment. The LA has not ensured that 'imposed unnecessary additional burdens' are not placed on providers.
6. Wirral Local Authority has taken on a very simplistic model of funding, one that has no built-in protection against leaving providers such as ourselves on a 'cliff edge.' This is evident in our impending budget disaster - a catastrophe if the quality service we provide is withdrawn. The core rate does not fully reflect the underlying costs of our quality setting.
7. DCSF guidance clearly states supplements to the basic rate may be desirable to allow the LA to reflect the needs of the children or to drive local policy objectives. Our Nursery is highly regarded and respected and is a focus within our community; it would be a tragedy if our very existence was threatened due to and what amounts to be an ad hoc imposition of the formula.
8. There are huge unresolved issues around the quality of provision LA Nursery Schools offer, in contrast to PVI providers. High numbers of children with additional needs, in our experience, are turned away from PVIs, because PVI settings do not have the quality staff or resources to cater for these children. We also provide a service for families made vulnerable by their circumstances; a group the PVI does not cater for. Our costs around high occurrences of Child protection and Child In Need support have not been factored in.
9. We feel strongly that the new system of funding does not incorporate an allowance for the quality of service we provide. There is a basic inconsistency at the heart of this single funding process - particularly in the light of our inspection as an educational institution, in line with Section 5 of Ofsted criteria. PVI providers are not subject to comparable Ofsted procedures; they have no requirement to deliver community cohesion, extended services or attainment, to the same depth and breadth as we are required to do.
10. Most disturbing is the fact that imposed funding will patently enforce closure, and, as quoted by Dawn Primarolo, that this should not be a 'vehicle to close, or close by strangulation, good nursery school provision.' And of course - exactly the position we will be forced into.