On 31 March 2017, Bridget Phillipson, Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, joined local Councillor Betty Gibson on a visit to Mill Hill Nursery School.
Many local parents are concerned about the future of Mill Hill Nursery as a result of government changes to the way maintained nurseries are funded. Bridget and Cllr Gibson met with Acting Head Joanne Coulson to discuss the situation.
Speaking after the visit, Bridget Phillipson MP said:
"It was really important to visit Mill Hill Nursery School today to discuss the current financial situation.
"Mrs Coulson was clear about the challenges that Mill Hill Nursery is facing, but I know that she and the governors are doing everything possible to ensure it can continue to provide high quality education.
"Sixty per cent of maintained nursery schools are rated outstanding by Ofsted and thirty-nine per cent as good – a record of excellence unequalled anywhere else in the education sector.
"Unfortunately, government cuts to the early years formula, which has decreased from £2.79billion in 2010 to a projected £1billion in 2019-20, mean there are now only 400 maintained nursery schools left in the country.
"I will keep fighting in Parliament for ministers to give nurseries like Mill Hill the funding they need. I hope that Sunderland Council will work closely with the Acting Head to consider all options to protect the current provision.
Acting Headteacher Joanne Coulson said:
"We were delighted to have the opportunity to show Bridget around our maintained Nursery School today.
"Her understanding around the school providing high levels of appropriate education for children and parents from 2-5 year old's within our community and how that is shared by all 9 maintained nursery schools across Sunderland was refreshing.
"Our current financial position was obviously discussed and I was pleased to tell her we were moving forward on that but are still awaiting any official written notifications from the Local Authority to be sent to Governors or indeed the school.
"We explained that until we receive that our school will continue to operate as a going concern and we are still taking in children as I parents would wish.
"The governors and myself were able to share with Bridget our delight at the amazing support and hard work of our parents who have gone above and beyond to show their trust and belief in us in us, it has been very uplifting for staff who are going through an extremely uncertain time.
"We discussed how many parents were very keen for their children to attend local authority maintained nursery school for the recognition that a teacher is always on site to support their children's education at this young age as they are venturing into their first steps into the school system.
"Although we obviously were unable to share the official outcome of our Ofsted this week until it is released officially we talked about the day and that the final grading will only be compared to other schools and not against private daycare and nurseries which are 'Ofsteded' under a different system.
"Often parents and others are nor aware there is a difference however Bridget showed a thorough understanding of these differences and all the complexities around this.
"The Governors and I felt Bridget was completely dedicated to work with us to support us in finding a way to ensure the long term sustainability of the school and has already started this work.
"I think I can speak for Governors, staff, parents and children that we do appreciate her support."