Nursery Education

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Science – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th January 1988.

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Photo of Mr Gerry Steinberg Mr Gerry Steinberg , City of Durham 12:00 am, 19th January 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has to increase the level of nursery provision; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

None. My right hon. Friend has very recently restated the Government's policy on the education of under-fives in his memorandum on the report of the Education, Science and Arts Committee in the previous Session, which the House will remember was entitled "Achievement in Primary Schools".

Photo of Mr Gerry Steinberg Mr Gerry Steinberg , City of Durham

I am sure that the majority of hon. Members appreciate the importance of nursery provision to future education and social development. Is it not deplorable that only 23 per cent. of our children get nursery provision? Will the Minister explain what provision he intends to make, bearing in mind that in 1972 the Prime Minister promised that by 1982 there would be nursery provision for 90 per cent. of our children? Is it not deplorable also that the Government hide behind the record of Labour local authorities that provide nursery provision—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long".]—Not long enough. The 10 best performers are Labour-controlled local authorities and the worst 10 are Tory-controlled.

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

I remind the hon. Gentleman that provision and demand in the nursery sector are discretionary. Nevertheless, most education authorities are gradually increasing provision. At present there are 272,000 children in nursery schools or classes, and that is the highest number ever reached.