Pre-school Education and Primary Education: Schools

Department for Education written question – answered at on 21 March 2024.

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Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what the average time is for her Department to approve mergers between pre-schools and primary schools; what steps her Department is taking to (a) reduce that time and (b) help ensure (i) safeguarding during transition and (ii) continuity of funding for childcare; and how many mergers between pre-schools and primary schools her Department has approved in the last 12 months.

Photo of David Johnston David Johnston The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Local authorities are responsible for making decisions on statutory proposals to alter the age range of maintained schools, including by the addition of a nursery.

Academies wishing to alter their age range must submit an application for a significant change to the department. In the last 12 months, the department received over 100 significant change applications to change the age range at an academy. The current data collection does not break this down further to enable the department to provide information on the number of schools that have requested to change their age range to add provision for nursery age children. The department does not collect data on the average length of time taken to reach a decision as applications can differ in their complexity.

The department has published revised guidance which will come into effect from the end of April 2024. The guidance sets out an updated application process that will allow low risk changes to progress to a decision more quickly following the necessary checks, which will streamline the application process. When implemented, the department will also be introducing a new data collection system to track application information in more detail.

With regards to safeguarding, schools must continue to have regard to the statutory guidance, ‘Keeping children safe in education’, which can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/64f0a68ea78c5f000dc6f3b2/Keeping_children_safe_in_education_2023.pdf. All early years settings must follow the Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework throughout any transition period.

Local authorities remain responsible for the continuation of funding, as they are required to ensure sufficiency of childcare places in their areas. Early years entitlements funding for children in nursery classes up to reception age would continue until those children moved into reception.

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