Yes, where proposals relate to the discontinuance (closure) of a maintained nursery school, a statement must be made setting out:
- the local authority's assessment of the quality and quantity of the alternative provision compared to the alternative provision compared to the school proposed to be discontinued and the proposed arrangements to ensure the expertise and specialism continues to be available; and
- The accessibility and convenience of replacement provision for local parents.
Statement on the Presumption against Closure of a Maintained Nursery School
This statement outlines the local authority's assessment of the quality and quantity of the proposed alternative provision compared with that of the school proposed to be discontinued and of the proposed arrangements to ensure the expertise and specialism continues to be available; and the accessibility and convenience of replacement provision for local parents.
St Mary's Community Nursery School has long enjoyed a positive reputation for the quality of early years education that it provides. Ofsted has found this provision to be 'Outstanding' since 2008. Quality has been assured by the expertise and dedication of a highly competent staff group; however this staffing establishment is now financially unsustainable with the result that the school is heading for a deficit of £170,043 by 31 March 2022 and this deficit is likely to increase by around £40-50,000 a year thereafter. This position may be further compromised if the lump sum, currently £83,311 per annum payable to the school from the Dedicated School Grant as a transitional arrangement is withdrawn in line with the government's policy to harmonise funding across all early years settings.
Consequently irrespective of whether or not an amalgamation takes place the school will need to rationalise its staffing structure as a matter of urgency. The Governing Body propose to reduce the staffing establishment of teachers and Level 3 teaching assistants to provide 78 pupil sessions each day from September 2020. This level of staffing meets Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) requirements for the number of children it is anticipated will be seeking to attend the school. It is proposed that staffing for this number of pupils would transfer to Overleigh St Mary's CE Primary School on amalgamation. This arrangement is sufficient to meet the current demand for places and can easily be increased by a further member of staff should future demand for places rise to meet the physical capacity of the premises.
The current management arrangement of a discrete headteacher is financially unsustainable. It is proposed that on amalgamation oversight of EYFS will fall under the management of the existing highly competent Overleigh St Mary's CE Primary School Foundation Stage lead. Amalgamation permits the rationalisation of management, business support and governance functions allowing a greater proportion of available resource to be directly targeted on teaching and learning.
Both schools currently have their own outdoor play areas leading to duplication of resources and a limited range of learning environments, it is proposed that as part of the amalgamation process there is a review of internal and external space with a view to achieving an integrated and enhanced range of learning environments.
This proposal maintains the current arrangement whereby the two schools are co-located on the same site. Whilst eager to make a more flexible and extended offer to working parents the St Mary's Community Nursery School governing body have been unable to implement such proposals because of the constraints on their space. Amalgamation of the schools and their proposed physical integration will permit a review of how the totality of accommodation can be used to make a more flexible and extended offer better able to meet the needs of working parents. The Overleigh St Mary's CE Primary School governing body are committed to providing this extended offer and the Local Authority has agreed to meet the cost of works necessary to create a safe and accessible integrated school.