Fight to save Sunderland’s state-run nursery schools

Staff, children and parents at the Millfield Community Nursery, Bell Street, Sunderland, celebrate a good rating from Ofsed
Staff, children and parents at the Millfield Community Nursery, Bell Street, Sunderland, celebrate a good rating from Ofsed
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Early years education bosses in Sunderland are backing a national campaign to save the country’s nursery schools.

An All Party Parliamentary Group has been established to look at nursery schools and classes, the vital role they play in education and the changes which should be made to secure their future.

Shelagh Morpeth, headteacher at Millfield Primary School, in Sunderland, said the number of state-run nursery schools have been disappearing at an alarming rate, despite the overwhelming evidence of their ability to give children the best possible start in life.

During the past five years alone, 200 nursery schools have vanished nationally, and now only 408 remain.

In Sunderland, the city council has worked hard to protect their nursery schools and Wearside is in the rare position of having nine such schools.

Mrs Morpeth explained that the Government is putting quantity of childcare over quality, by using the same funding model for nursery schools as other childcare settings, despite the fact that nursery schools have to have a qualified headteacher and teaching staff – whereas private childcare settings can employ people on the minimum wage.

She said: “There is overwhelming evidence and research to show that children who go to nursery school do a lot better in later life and nursery education narrows the gap for disadvantaged children.

“Nursery schools are the only sector in education where 60% are rated as outstanding, and for every £1 spent on nursery education the Government will save £7 in the long run.

“The Government has all this information, but refuses to fund us as schools.”

The nine Wearside nursery schools – Hetton, Hetton Lyons, Houghton, Hylton Redhouse, Mill Hill, Millfield, Oxclose, Pennywell Early Years and Usworth Colliery – have joined forces to set up Partners in Pedagogy, offering skills and training to other settings.

They are all joining the voice to protect the country’s remaining nursery schools.