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Labour to convert spare primary classes into 3,334 nurseries

A Labour government would convert “spare” classrooms into nurseries at 3,334 primary schools in England, the party has announced.

The policy, which the party said would be funded from its plan to impose VAT on private school fees, would create “100,000 additional childcare places”, according to Labour.

The Guardian reported that the party will spend £140 million on its plan.

Bridget Phillipson

Nurseries “could be run by the schools themselves or local private or voluntary sector nursery providers”, the party said. Further details of the plan have not been released.

Many primary schools in England already play host to nurseries, and more physical space will be freed up in the coming years due to falling rolls.

Primary numbers have been falling for several years as a result of a decline in the birth rate following a baby boom in the 2000s.

Pupil numbers in state nursery and primary schools are due to fall by a further 524,000 between this year and 2030.

Labour’s policy will be formally announced by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson on Monday.

Jon Richards, UNISON’s assistant general secretary, said “new nurseries attached to schools could make the world of difference to mums and dads struggling to find affordable childcare.

“As workers in school-run nurseries are on nationally agreed local authority rates, wages tend to be higher than in privately run establishments.”

School-based nurseries are ‘high quality’

A party press release said the move “represented the next stage in its long-term plan to deliver a modern childcare system that better supports parents from the end of parental leave to the end of primary school”. 

The expansion “will see Labour create 3,300 high quality nurseries from converted classrooms”.

The party said this would “help deliver both the immediate demand for childcare in under-served areas, and anticipated additional demand from the expansion of government-funded childcare entitlements announced in the 2023 budget which Labour is committed to delivering on”.

Starmer warned that “after 14 years of Conservative government, too many children are starting school already behind, and too many parents are being held back from fulfilling their career ambitions”.

Phillipson said school-based nurseries “deliver high quality education which enables children to achieve and thrive when they at primary school”.

“The 3,300 new nurseries we announce today will be key to delivering Labour’s mission for half a million more children to hit the early learning goals by 2030, giving them the firm foundations from which to succeed.”

The party said plans to retrofit individual classrooms would cost on average £40,000.

Multiplied across the 3,334 new nurseries, that would work out at around £134 million in set-up costs.

The party said training staff and running the nurseries would be funded through the extension of the free childcare offer to 30 hours.

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