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Nursery Education (Avon)

Volume 885: debated on Tuesday 4 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many places in nursery classes are available in the county of Avon in the current year; and how many he expects to be available in 1976.

In October 1974 there were 1,995 full-time equivalent nursery education places in the county of Avon. The authority has informed my Department that it does not propose to take up any part of its nursery education building allocations for the years 1974–75 and 1975–76.

My hon. Friend will appreciate the very strong feeling that exists among Government supporters about the essential nursery education which is not being provided in the county of Avon, where the job is being left to playgroups, which themselves are feeling the pinch in the present economic situation. Can my hon. Friend say what pressure will be brought to bear on counties like Avon which refuse to provide nursery education with the building programme and the money available?

I am glad to say that there are only two other authorities alongside Avon which have turned down their allocation. The Government have indicated to authorities that where they are not taking up their allocations we shall reallocate the allocations to other areas, especially those of social need. I am pleased to say that 57 authorities have taken up additional allocations and are now providing places in areas where deprived children are in great need.

No doubt my hon. Friend will give an additional windfall to Wolverhampton as a result of some authorities not taking up their allocations for nursery education—

It is a question, Mr. Speaker. Is my hon. Friend aware that if many authorities refuse to take up their allocations he might consider not allowing those authorities to have their full allocations for other school building, and that the Government ought therefore to make this a condition?

I take note of what my hon. Friend said about the claims of Wolverhampton. As for the national position, we are determined to proceed with this educational advance and we are using all the options open to us to persuade authorities to go ahead. We are keeping the matter under urgent review.