May 21 2013 Latest news:
Max Walters, Reporter
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Only pre-school children from the poorest families will be supported
Pre-school children in the borough could soon have their nursery time slashed as Brent Council seeks to support only the poorest families with full-time nursery places.
From the next school year, only children from disadvantaged backgrounds receiving free school meals will have a full-time place paid for.
The news means some parents may be forced to pay for private nursery tuition or risk having their child’s nursery time halved.
Legally, every three-year-old child must spend 15 hours a week at nursery. The Department of Education provides these hours for free and Brent previously made up the remaining hours. However, from September they will be unable to as they continue to try to save funds.
A council spokesman said: “We have to meet these legal requirements and more children having access to free part-time places is fairer than fewer children having free full-time places.
“Obviously, with the financial challenges we are facing, we don’t have the funds to continue subsidising full-time places as before.”
Cllr Mary Arnold, lead member for children and families, said: “There is huge demand for places so this is ensuring that those in need are getting the full-time places while we still meet the legal requirement of providing 15 hours for free for all.”
Roughly half of the borough’s 50 primary schools also run a nursery for children and they will now decide whether to provide full or part time places.
Cllr Arnold continued: “We are handing the power to the schools to assess the needs of their local pupils. It’s about finding a fair way for the local authority and schools to assess the needs of pupils together.
“Through children centres and the Children’s and Families Information Service, we are supporting all parents with choosing nurseries.” The council has to make £100million worth of savings over four years and has previously axed libraries and day care centres.
Cllr Arnold added: “We have a very tight budget but the message is, we now have a system that is based on equality and fairness.”