Last reviewed 7 May 2021

A third of maintained nursery schools in England are cutting staff and services due to a loss of income, additional Covid costs and a lack of certainty over funding, according to a new survey.

The survey, which was carried out by Early Education, NAHT, NEU and UNISON, has revealed that nursery schools lost an average of £76,000 in annual income during the pandemic as well as having to spend an extra £8,000 for additional Covid-related costs.

Almost half (46%) of respondents said that at the end of March 2021 they would be in deficit for the year. Only 23% of respondents confirmed that they could continue to operate within their current funding levels and over one in five (21%) reported that they have financial recovery plans in place or under discussion.

Maintained nursery schools were not eligible for exceptional cost funding for Covid or for some government schemes which benefited private early years providers such as the business rates holiday or business loans.

Funding for the next two terms has now been confirmed but maintained nursery schools are calling for the Government to confirm plans for a long-term funding solution. The survey report suggests that an ongoing lack of certainty, as well as the financial pressures of Covid, is putting the long-term sustainability of maintained nursery schools at severe risk.

Beatrice Merrick, Chief Executive of Early Education, said:

“Maintained nursery schools during the pandemic were a lifeline for local families: they stayed open for the most vulnerable children and children of critical workers, often taking in children from other settings which closed. They supported their families with remote learning – and often with food parcels and practical support. They were in touch with vulnerable families when health and social services were unable to maintain contact. Instead of this lifeline being supported, it is being put at risk by government failure to address their routine funding needs. Having been operating on a financial knife-edge for years, the pandemic has tipped the balance for too many schools, Government needs to act now to resolve the long-term funding issue and provide targeted financial help to those whose survival has been jeopardised by the pandemic.”