Future of maintained nurseries and support for children with special needs at risk - LGA survey

“This provision is now under threat unless government commits to an extra year of funding in 2020/21 as part of wider work to find a long-term sustainable funding solution in the Spending Review."

Thousands of children with special needs could miss out on vital daily care and support unless the Government continues to provide extra funding for maintained nursery schools, a survey by the LGA reveals today.

Maintained nursery schools play a significant role in providing care and support for more than 5,000 children with SEND, with qualified teachers designated as co-ordinators – something not required in other nursery provision.

The Government has provided £55 million each year in supplementary funding for maintained nurseries since a new funding formula was introduced in 2017. The additional funding was provided in recognition of the extra costs faced by maintained nursery schools, such as the need for more highly qualified staff.

However, this funding is set to end after 2019/20.

Nearly two thirds of councils responding to the LGA survey – 61 per cent – fear maintained nursery schools in their area will close if this funding is not protected.

More than half (52 per cent) also said that the loss of funding would mean reduced support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, is calling on government to commit to continue this funding for an extra year in 2020/21 to help councils keep maintained nurseries open before a long-term sustainable funding solution is found as part of the Spending Review.

There are currently 397 maintained nurseries in England with more than 40,980 children enrolled, of which 13.8 per cent have SEND. Only 6.3 per cent of 3 and 4-year-olds in the general population have SEND.

Maintained nurseries are more highly rated by Ofsted than other types of provision, and concentrated in areas of deprivation, which otherwise tend to experience lower-quality provision.

Councils are already struggling to manage the rising demand in support from children with SEND in schools and this issue is an additional pressure. The LGA is calling on the Government to address the underfunding of SEND provision in the Autumn Budget, otherwise councils may not be able to meet their statutory duties and children with high needs or disabilities could miss out on a mainstream education.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“As our survey shows, councils have grave concerns about the future of maintained nursery schools if the current funding does not continue beyond 2020.

“This could have a detrimental impact on children with special educational needs, for whom maintained nurseries provide a lifeline of vital support.

“For example, unlike other nurseries, maintained nurseries have to have a qualified teacher designated as a SEND co-ordinator.

“This provision is now under threat unless government commits to an extra year of funding in 2020/21 as part of wider work to find a long-term sustainable funding solution in the Spending Review.

“This is on top of the overarching funding pressures councils are facing in providing support for children with SEND, which we would like to see the Chancellor address in next week’s Autumn Budget.”

Bright Futures

Budget 2018 - our submission

unprecedented funding pressures and demand for key services is pushing councils to the limit. Councils have strained every sinew to play a vital role in supporting local economies and communities through a difficult few years.

Read our submission to the Budget


  1. We asked 56 councils with maintained nursery schools about the likelihood of these nurseries closing, if funding was not protected after 2019/20

    The highest proportion of councils (19 out of 56, 33 per cent) said it was ‘very likely’ that maintained nurseries in their authority would close if funding for such nurseries was not protected and 28 per cent (16 out of 56) said this scenario was ‘fairly likely’.

    A sizable proportion of councils (16 in total) were unsure if their MNSs would close if funding was not protected.

    We also asked what the likely impact on maintained nurseries would be if funding was not protected. 29 councils (52 per cent) said it would mean reduced support for children with SEND.

    Full results of the survey

  2. Number and proportion of children accessing maintained nursery schools in January 2018

    The tables here show that 13.8 per cent of children on roll at MNS in 2018 had SEN. This amounts to 5,655 children. For reference, 3.1 per cent of two year olds and 6.3 per cent of 3 and 4 year olds are recognised as having SEN (table 18LA)