Five Lambeth nurseries could close if they do not get extra cash from council

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

Five South London nurseries could close if a council doesn’t give them extra cash, teachers have warned.

Hundreds of children who attend maintained pre-schools in Lambeth could be left without support.

Unlike normal pre-schools, maintained nursery schools employ qualified teachers, meaning they are more expensive to run.

They often teach children in deprived areas who need extra support.

But they receive just £300 per child on free school meals – 10 times less than ordinary schools.

Primary schools receive £3,000 per child on free school meals.

The five maintained nurseries in Lambeth’s federation, all with children’s centres, are:

Effra Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Effra Parade, Brixton 

Holmewood Nursery School in Upper Tulse Hill, Brixton Hill

Triangle Nursery School on the William Bonney Estate, Clapham

Ethelred Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Lollard Street, Kennington

Maytree Nursery School in Allingham Road, Clapham.

Four of the five schools are rated as “outstanding”, the other as “good”.

Luke Page, a teacher at a maintained nursery school in Lambeth, said all five schools in the borough could be forced to close if they didn’t find more cash soon.

Speaking at a Lambeth Council meeting on January 19, he said: “We love what we do, but unless we act now we’re going to have to close.

“The reason for that is we just can’t sustain the level of care we offer at the moment. Our budgets don’t allow it.

“Maintained nursery schools are schools in every sense of the word.

“They are Ofsteded as schools and our costs are school costs. We need to have teachers on site.

“We have  to have a special educational needs co-ordinator and that’s to support the very high level and complex needs of the children who attend the schools.”

Mr Page said government cuts had caused a funding shortfall for the specialist pre-schools.

Maintained nursery schools currently teach 650 children across Lambeth – 183 of whom have special needs.

The schools have supported 800 children across the borough in the last five years.

Mr Page said the nursery schools were buckling under costs they faced.

He said: “It doesn’t seem very fair.

“We pay our rates, which we never used to – that has to come out of our budget.

“We also pay for free school meals in terms of providing a meal for our children – but with every other cost we have we’re not sure we’re going to be able to do that for much longer.”

Cllr Ed Davie, Labour cabinet member for children and young people, blamed government cuts on the schools’ funding woes.

He said: “This council are absolutely committed to maintained nursery schools.

“The essential problem is that in 2017/18, the Conservative government changed the funding formula for maintained nurseries so that we’re no longer able to use different funding base rates for different providers.”

Just three years ago, Lambeth council cut the number of early care projects it funds, from 23 to 18, to save £1.4million – leaving families having to travel much further for subsidised places.

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