Pre-schools across the county for children with special educational needs can breathe a sigh of relief, as the government has this week confirmed their funding will remain in place for 2020-21.

Officials in Westminster have also made a commitment to protecting the long-term funding of these maintained nursery schools in the future.

The announcement came alongside other funding announcements for nurseries that will see an increase in their minimum hourly funding rate, and follows the announcement of an additional £66 million investment in the early years as part of the spending review.

MP for Pendle, Andrew Stephenson, has been part of the campaign to secure their long-term funding and had recently raised the issue with education ministers and the Chancellor ahead of the Budget, before it was postponed.

On the decision, he said: "This decision guarantees the future for Pendle’s maintained nurseries and is extremely welcome.

"Having argued hard that the Government needed to provide clarity on this, I’m delighted by today’s news.

"I know Pendle’s maintained nurseries were concerned about their immediate future, not to mention those families that benefit from the excellent early education they provide."

A maintained nursery school is a local authority school for pre-school children run by a headteacher and specially qualified staff.

They are often in deprived areas and their admission policies prioritise the children in greatest need, meaning they are able to support children with special education needs and who need greater support.

According to the 2016-17 Ofsted report, 63 per cent of maintained nurseries were rated outstanding.

In 2017, a new funding formula was introduced by the Government to provide £55 million each year in supplementary funding for maintained nurseries.

However, this funding was set to end after 2019/20.

In October, a survey by the Local Government Association revealed that almost two thirds of councils fear that maintained nursery schools in their area will close unless future funding is protected.

Children, young people and education boss at Blackburn with Darwen council, Maureen Bateson, welcomed the news but said there was still a long way to go before all the nurseries across the borough were out of danger.

Cllr Bateson said: "Everything is a bit up in the air with a general election looming but obviously if the funding was being maintained then that would be great.

"We are looking at better offers but at least this is a commitment and a step in the right direction.

"There's a lot of pressure on these nurseries and anything we can do to relieve that pressure is welcomed."

Schools Minister Nick Gibb added: "I can confirm that supplementary funding for maintained nursery schools (MNS) will continue, at its current rate, for the whole of the 2020-21 financial year.

"I can also confirm that the government remains committed to funding for MNS in the longer term; and that any reform to the way they are funded in future will be accompanied with funding protections."