Fiona Phillips: Nurseries are vitally important and should be properly funded

I often fondly cast my mind back to when my boys were ­toddlers – especially now they’re grumpy, grunting young men who don’t seem to like me very much any more.

And it reminds me that I really don’t know what I’d have done, or how we’d all have managed, without nursery school.

The nursery days stand out as a gentle haven of social interaction and learning for my boys, as well as peace of mind for me at work, knowing they were happy and lovingly cared for at the beginning of their lifelong learning curve.

And, just as ­importantly, mixing with other kids from all sorts of cultures and backgrounds.

Local, state-maintained nurseries are fundamental in getting our children’s education – social as well as academic – off to the best possible start.

They offer the highest quality early education and care you can get, with around 90% of our state nurseries rated good or outstanding.

And, vitally, they’re open to all: rich, poor, bright, average, with disabilities, learning difficulties, or just about managing.

A great, comprehensive start to life, whether born with a silver spoon in your mouth, or a rusty spanner (­probably the most useful!).

Sadly, though, this jewel-in-the-crown model of social and educational mobility, currently ­responsible for supporting some of our most ­disadvantaged children (64% of ­maintained nursery schools are in the 30% most deprived areas of England) is under threat and in danger of disappearing.

Already some nurseries are running into difficulty because they cannot plan for the future without secured funding.

Jack Dromey, long-time Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington and passionate supporter of state- maintained nurseries, is campaigning to secure a long-term funding ­solution and, therefore, a future for these schools.

Most, as I’ve already mentioned, are in the poorest areas and, as a result, are the most affected and the most in need.

Right now hundreds of nursery schools are at risk of closure unless the Government funds these ­important, specialist, early years education settings.

If not, as Jack Dromey told me earlier this week, the poorest ­children, “instead of getting off to the best start in life, will get off to the worst start”.

“That means,” he added, “we will be letting down a whole generation of children”. Which would be an unforgivable tragedy.

Let’s hope our mostly privately educated, leaderless Government is listening… and understanding.

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