MPs call for nursery schools to become academies

Two MPs are calling on the Department for Education (DfE) to consider allowing nursery schools to become academies.

In a parliamentary debate last week, they said they believed early years’ providers should be able to seek academy status.

Both Shadow Minister for Childcare and Children Lucy Powell and the Conservative chair of the Education Select Committee, Graham Stuart, said it would give nurseries a chance to innovate with less control from their local authority.

Schools across the country have been taking advantage of the option to become academies, which gives them greater freedom from the local authority and more control over budgets.

Academy schools are already able to offer nursery school provision. But under current legislation nurseries are not permitted to become academies as they do not fit the legal definition of offering full-time education to pupils of compulsory school age.

Speaking to Schools Week, Mr Stuart said: “I took a delegation of nursery schools to see ministers earlier in the year to discuss this and the idea of some of our long-standing nursery schools being able to use academy status in the future and share best practice.

“I believe it is something which deserves full consideration.”

Ms Powell said: “Nursery schools offer some of the best early education and care to children, particularly in deprived areas.

“Yet we know from research by Early Education that their numbers are falling as this provision is more costly than other private, voluntary and independent childcare provision and local authorities are coming under increasing pressure as huge budget cuts impact on their ability to deliver services.

“The Education Select Committee asked the government to bring forward plans to safeguard this important provision yet all we’ve seen from government is inaction.

“Exploring how nursery schools could become academies, in the same way schools at other age ranges can, is one option we could consider to free up nursery schools and give them space and freedom to innovate and safeguard their futures.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “Academies are free to offer nursery provision and as part of our drive to improve quality in this area we want more good and outstanding schools to do this.

“Nurseries are held to account by Ofsted and should a provider fail to meet the high standards required we expect local authorities to take swift action to improve performance.”

Meanwhile, more than half of all children’s centres inspected in a three-month period were less than good, Ofsted statistics show.

Between April and June, the inspectorate visited 89 children’s centres across the country. Of these, 42 per cent were told they required improvement and 10 per cent were judged to be inadequate.

Just 3 per cent were rated outstanding, and 45 per cent were rated as good.

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