Memorandum submitted by Nursery Schools and Early Years Centres in Wirral
1. As Heads and Governors of Wirral's three nursery schools deemed good and outstanding by Ofsted at their last inspections, we are writing to share our grave concerns about the impact of the early years Single Funding Formula on the future viability of the maintained nursery sector in Wirral.
2. It is clear from initial discussions with our local Education Authority in Wirral that the formula may result in massive cuts of up to 43% to our nursery schools budget over the next three years. In the past 5 years we have already faced serious cuts to our funding which have resulted in a number of redundancies and extremely tight annual budgets, consequently we are at a loss to understand how we can make any further efficiencies. The high cost of running a dedicated nursery school as opposed to a nursery class or pre school group means that our schools would no longer be viable following such a drastic cut to our budgets.
3. Over the past few years 2 of the 3 schools have grown from being nursery schools to identified Early Excellence Centres and now Phase 1 Children's Centres providing a wide range of services "under one roof". The third school has developed into a dedicated early years centre providing day care. The Governors in all three schools are responsible for the management of two budgets (delegated and Children's Centre/Neighbourhood Nursery). The budgets are complex, finely balanced and interdependent. Each school (Centre) has developed over time seamless intertwining of services and staffing, as a result of being at the forefront of various national and local initiatives and meeting local community needs. This has resulted in a large number of budgetary anomalies which the Heads and Governors have worked hard to try to resolve. The Head teachers are also Heads of Centre and lead large multi agency teams of up to 40+ staff. The Centres are recognised locally and nationally as flagships sharing their expertise and high standards of provision with a wide range of early years practitioners. All are situated in areas of high deprivation and are greatly valued by their communities.
The following table shows the impact of deprivation within the areas we serve.
Data produced by NHS Wirral for
Wirral Extended Services (Schools) Cluster Profile 2009
4. If the nursery schools were to be adversely affected by the implementation of the Formula the loss to the local communities and to other early years professionals would be immense.
5. We would ask the Committee to carefully reconsider the issue of the Single Funding Formula. Whilst it is clear from the published guidance that the intention of the Formula is not to threaten the viability of nursery schools, nevertheless Wirral's' nursery schools will be the major casualty of the Early Years Single Formula.
6. The Wirral Local Authority has responded to the directives from DCSF as positively as possible but the outcome still threatens the future of nursery schools judged as providing outstanding provision on the Wirral.