Council to discuss schools funding

The future of nursery schools has been made more uncertain by government guidance calling their 2021-22 funding allocation “conditional”, a report says.

Telford & Wrekin Council will discuss the matter next week
Telford & Wrekin Council will discuss the matter next week

Writing for the Telford and Wrekin Schools Forum, Group Accountant Tim Davis says the council will see the early years portion of its Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) rise by up to 8p per child per hour in 2021-22, and plans to pass this on to providers in full.

He adds that maintained nursery schools will see their existing funding arrangement continue, but notes that Department for Education guidance said this “may be subject to change” and should be treated as “unconfirmed”.

Mr Davis says it is “difficult to believe” the government would change it at short notice, but said the statement is “hardly helpful” and “reinforces the ongoing uncertainty” around nursery schools.

In 2017-18, a national funding formula for DSG early years funding was introduced, and saw the hourly rate rise from £4.85 for two-year-old and £4.03 for three- and four-year-olds to £5.20 and £4.36 respectively.

The rates stayed at that level until 2020-21, when they both rose by 8pm.

“The increase for early years for 2021-22 is once against modest in scale with an increase of 8p for two-year-old funding and 6p for three- and four-year-olds,” Mr Davis writes.

“The DfE has also announced that additional funding allocated to local authorities with nursery schools will continue in 2021-22.

“However, the DfE guidance published in December 2020 contains the following: ‘The MNS [maintained nursery schools] supplementary funding allocations for September 2021 to March 2022 are conditional; they may be subject to change and local authorities should therefore treat them as unconfirmed.’

“This is hardly helpful and reinforces the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the long-term future of nursery schools, although it is difficult to believe that the DfE would fundamentally change the basis of funding at such short notice.”

Mr Davis writes that DfE rules require local authorities to pass 95 per cent of its early years funding directly to the providers, adding that Telford and Wrekin plans to allocate 98 per cent.

The Schools Forum, which consists of education and childcare representatives, will be asked for its views on the 2021-22 early years funding proposals when it meets remotely on Thursday, January 14.

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