Falmouth coronavirus: Councillors concern over future of nurseries and pre-schools

  Posted: 13.01.21 at 17:39 by Richard Whitehouse - LDR

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Cornwall councillors have called for more to be done to help nurseries and pre-schools which are losing out on funding.

Early years providers like nurseries and pre-schools have had to remain open entirely during the coronavirus pandemic.

However with some parents choosing not to send their children to nursery or pre-schools they are losing out on funding as the amount of money they receive is based on the number of children they have.

In addition if nurseries or pre-schools decide to close during the pandemic they lose out on funding entirely.

The issue was highlighted at a meeting of the council’s children and families overview and scrutiny committee today and Cornwall councillors said that unless more was done some early years providers could fold.

Julian Rand, Cornwall councillor for St Keverne and Meneage, said he was very concerned about the issue.

He said: “The nurseries and pre-schools that have been told to remain open are really, really struggling. We are in danger of losing a lot of them.”

Cllr Rand said that he had been a treasurer of a pre-school for many years and had helped to set one up so he understood the pressures they face.

He said: “All of a sudden if a young child doesn’t attend a nursery the funding stops but they have to stay open – it is a serious situation.”

Cllr Rand said the council should “push every bit of pressure on the Government that we can and ask for common sense and make sure that these pre-schools can stay open”.

Meredith Teasdale, Cornwall Council strategic director for children, schools and families, said that the council was offering support to pre-schools and nurseries.

She said: “It is one area that we are flagging as a risk in our internal processes, particularly in the current lockdown.

“Through the last lockdowns we worked really hard with Early Years providers to do regular webinars in order to support them to make sure their provision is safe and on financial matters.”

She said that the council was aware of a funding issue for early years and said that was due to the current structure and processes for funding.

Meredith said: “With parents choosing not to send their children to Early Years provision at the moment it is creating issues within the sector but we do have a picture of that and a view of that and we are supporting the providers.”

Councillors heard that the council was raising the funding issue with the Regional Schools Commissioner as they knew that providers “are struggling”.

Meredith added: “If parents decide not to send their children to nursery that has a knock on consequence for their funding.”

The committee heard that if a nursery or pre-school is forced to close due to Covid-19 then they would still be able to access funding, however if they chose to close then that funding would stop.

Council officers said that they knew of two pre-schools which were attached to academy schools in Cornwall which had now closed “totally”.

Meredith said that the councillors’ message had been heard “loud and clear” and that the council would continue discussions with the Government about how to address the problem.

Kate Evan-Hughes, service director for education, said that the council acknowledged the important role that Early Years providers have had during the pandemic.

She said: “Our providers have gone over and above to ensure they stay open. They recognise the important part they play in supporting our children and families in terms of access to work and the importance of Early Years provision.”

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