Stoke-on-Trent's free nursery places face the axe
HUNDREDS of families could lose out on free full-time nursery places and see the hours their children spend in education reduced by half under sweeping budget cuts.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is consulting on whether to reduce free nursery class provision from 30 hours a week to the statutory minimum of 15 hours.
It would affect three and four-year-olds taught in either Stoke-on-Trent's 67 primary schools or six council-run nursery schools.
From September, parents who want full-time places could be forced to pay for the extra 15 hours themselves.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
The move could help save the authority £1.7 million-a-year from its £11.5 million children's services budget, although some money could be diverted towards funding free part-time places for some two-year-olds.
Chris Brislen, principal of Belgrave St Bartholomew's Academy, in Longton, today claimed early years education could 'bear the brunt' of the latest £23 million council cutbacks due to be revealed tomorrow.
He said: "We will fight to keep our full-time provision. We are looking at children in the city who are at levels way below those expected nationally. It is illogical to cut nursery education, which is getting children ready for school." Latest figures show Stoke-on-Trent has the lowest results for seven-year-olds at key stage one out of 152 authorities in England.
It is one of only two English councils to offer free full-time nursery places. In the private sector, three-year-olds already only have access to 15 hours of free education.
Administrator Charlene Wilkes, aged 24, from Smallthorne, who wants to send three-year-old daughter Kyla Cartlidge to New Ford Primary, in Smallthorne, in September, said: "I am paying £130-a-week for private daycare, although she will get 15 hours of free funding from January now she has turned three.
"It could be another year of scrimping and saving if I can't get a free full-time place. That's not fair."
Mum Kelly Stevenson, aged 26, from Abbey Hulton, who is fighting the proposed cut, said: "Cutting nursery education is completely wrong."
The council is looking at three options – keeping the status quo, offering free part-time places to all three-year-olds, or funding full-time places for vulnerable children and offering others 15 hours free.
It is not known how many children receive full-time nursery provision.
Councillor Alan Dutton, cabinet member for education, said: "We are undertaking a wide-ranging review to ensure poor outcomes at key stage one are addressed and the council continues to meet its statutory obligations to provide nursery education for two, three and four-year-olds."