THE head teacher of the oldest nursery school in York has called on the Government to make a long term commitment to funding.

A 27,000 strong petition was handed over in Downing Street on Monday (March 2) calling for more money for the country’s 389 state nursery schools. It calls on the government to make a commitment to funding nursery schools in its Spring budget.

Claire Rigden, who is head teacher at St Paul's Nursery School, the city's only Local Authority maintained nursery, said currently her funding pledge runs out in July next year and beyond that the future looks uncertain.

She said: "We work really hard on keeping our numbers up, but if we lose our Government funding from the Local Authority - which works out at nearly £100,000 a year - we won't be able to run. It is a third of our income.

"We are a popular nursery, we have 94 children on roll and have up to 61 children at any one time in the nursery. We want the Government to support our plight and to agree to at least a three-year funding plan and we want it to be included in the budget on March 11."

Mrs Rigden said the nursery opened on December 1 1936 and was gifted to the local authority by the Rowntree family. It caters for children aged three - five and is tucked away in a grade two listed building in the corner of St Paul's Square in Holgate.

The nursery, which is already full up to a year in advance, employs 24 staff and Mrs Rigden said they already supplement their income by providing breakfast and after school clubs for older children.

York Press:

Claire Rigden pictured above with some of the pupils at St Paul's Nursery School

St Paul's also relies on extra cash from City of York Council as it is the only nursery in York to have enhanced provision for children with special educational needs and the rest is made up in charges for things like the additional clubs they provide.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We recognise the importance of maintained nursery schools and the valuable services they provide. We are providing around £60 million of supplementary funding for maintained nursery schools during the 2020-21 financial year and are committed to funding for these settings in the longer term.”