MP gives backing to Sunderland nursery amid fears for its future

(from left)  Joanne Coulson, Bridget Phillipson and Silksworth councillor Betty Gibson
(from left) Joanne Coulson, Bridget Phillipson and Silksworth councillor Betty Gibson
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A Sunderland nursery facing an uncertain future has been backed by a Wearside MP.

The Echo revealed last month that education chiefs were in discussions with governors about the future of Mill Hill Nursery School, in the face of changes to funding from central Government.

I know that many local parents are concerned about the future of Mill Hill Nursery School, which is why it was so important to meet today with Acting Head Joanne Coulson to discuss the situation.

Bridget Phillipson

Parents have already begun a campaign to keep the nursery open, with hundreds of people signing a petition in support.

The nursery school has 90 children aged between two and four attending classes at its Saint Court site.

From this year, free care for three-and four-year-olds is set to rise from 15 to 30 hours a week in term-time.

Ministers say the changes to funding will provide stability for nursery schools, but unions have warned that hundreds of nursery schools could close because they will be unable to cope with the financial cost.

Now Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson has visited the school to discuss the situation with parents and staff.

“I know that many local parents are concerned about the future of Mill Hill Nursery School, which is why it was so important to meet today with Acting Head Joanne Coulson to discuss the situation,” she said.

“Mrs Coulson was clear about the challenges that Mill Hill Nursery is facing, but I know that she and the governors are doing everything possible to ensure it can continue to provide high quality education.

“Sixty per cent of maintained nursery schools are rated outstanding by Ofsted and thirty-nine per cent as good – a record of excellence unequalled anywhere else in the education sector.

“Unfortunately, government cuts to the early years formula, which has decreased from £2.79billion in 2010 to a projected £1billion in 2019-20, mean there are now only 400 maintained nursery schools left in the country.

“I will keep fighting in Parliament for ministers to give nurseries like Mill Hill the funding they need and I hope that Sunderland Council will work closely with the Acting Head to consider all options to protect the current provision.”

Acting head teacher Joanne Coulson welcomed the MP’s visit: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to show Bridget around our maintained Nursery School today,” she said.

“Her understanding around the school providing high levels of appropriate education for children and parents from two-to five-year-olds within our community and how that is shared by all nine maintained nursery schools across Sunderland was refreshing.

“Our current financial position was obviously discussed and I was pleased to tell her we were moving forward on that but are still awaiting any official written notifications from the Local Authority to be sent to Governors or indeed the school.

“We explained that until we receive that our school will continue to operate as a going concern and we are still taking in children as I parents would wish.

“The governors and myself were able to share with Bridget our delight at the amazing support and hard work of our parents who have gone above and beyond to show their trust and belief in us, it has been very uplifting for staff who are going through an extremely uncertain time.

“The Governors and I felt Bridget was completely dedicated to work with us to support us in finding a way to ensure the long term sustainability of the school and has already started this work.

“I think I can speak for Governors, staff, parents and children that we do appreciate her support.”