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The Wharf Nursery School

What is a Maintained Nursery School?

The Wharf – a Maintained Nursery School established in 1947

We often get asked, ‘what exactly is a maintained nursery school?’  This is not surprising as there are only four in Surrey.

A maintained nursery school is funded and controlled by the local authority, just like any other local authority school.

They must be led by a head teacher and employ other qualified teachers; like all schools in the country, their special needs co-ordinator (SENCo) must be a teacher. 

They are inspected by Ofsted in exactly the same way as primary and secondary schools.

Just under 400 maintained nursery schools remain in England.  They represent an unparalleled reservoir of early years’ expertise.  97% of them nationally and 100% in Surrey are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted.

Maintained nursery schools are uniquely placed to:

  • provide high quality early education, led by specialist head teachers, and delivered by qualified  teachers, nursery nurses and early years educators.
  • integrate education, care and health services for children, so that all aspects of a child’s development can be supported.
  • put parents and families at the centre of their work.
  • share their expertise with other early education and childcare providers, so that all children in the local community benefit.
  • give priority in their admissions to vulnerable children and have the skills and expertise to support them successfully.
  • are effective in ’closing the gap’ between the most disadvantaged children and their peers.
  • as a consequence of local authority referrals and sign posting by health and social services they support a higher than average concentration of children with SEN/D.  They are able to share their expertise in early identification and intervention with other settings.


A brief history of maintained nursery schools in the UK

(taken from Early Education

1929   The return of Labour government.  A joint education and health circular encouraged local authorities to open nursery schools.  Nine nursery schools were opened in England.

1933   Haddow Report supported nursery schools as desirable adjunct to the national system of education. The report highlighted the need to provide nursery schools with garden playgrounds near housing schemes. 

1936   Nursery School Association (NSA) submitted memorandum to the Board of Education emphasising importance of nursery schools for all children, not just as a source of remedial work in slum areas or for the nurture of debilitated children.

1944  Education Act raises hopes by stating that local authorities should provide nursery schools, or, where more expedient, nursery classes for all children whose parents wanted them.

1952   Spring: NSA branches at Brighton, Nottingham, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, Weston Super Mare, Wigan and Kent all engaged in campaigning against the threatened closure of nursery schools and classes. December: thanks to swift and strenuous action, the threat to maintained nursery schools partially averted.

1960    The part-time nursery school was instituted providing support for many more children.

1967    The Plowden Report ‘Children and their Primary Schools’  urged the setting up of more nursery schools and classes especially in areas of social deprivation. 24 authorities were invited to submit proposals for the provision, expansion or improvement of nursery schools or classes, day nurseries and children's residential homes. As a result 16000 more nursery school places were made available.

1988    Government inquiry into educational provision for under-fives recommended that all children should be entitled to nursery education.

1990    The Rumbold Report, ’Starting with Quality’ looking at the quality of education experience of 3 and 4 year olds, published.

2006    Early Education prints  ‘Position paper 1’ focussing on the importance of qualified early years teachers in nursery schools and children's centres and the key role they play in improving outcomes for all children.

2016    All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) set up to look at the value and future sustainability of maintained nursery schools.

2017   Early years’ national funding formula starts.  Maintained nursery schools see significant funding cuts and begin to close.  As a result of the APPG, the government give maintained nursery schools transitional funding until March 2020 in recognition of them being schools with additional costs.

2019    Government guarantees that transitional funding will continue until July 2020.