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Nursery Education

Volume 128: debated on Thursday 25 February 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what consideration he has given to the introduction of an under-fives initiative in Northern Ireland.

The implementation of this objective is being carried forward in the detailed operational plans drawn up annually by the health and social services boards in the light of local needs, priorities and available resources. I have no plans to introduce a special initiative for the under-fives in Northern Ireland.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what information is available to indicate the number of mother and toddler groups in Northern Ireland and the assistance or concessions offered to them by area boards, councils, the Housing Executive and other bodies.

The extent to which health and social services boards provide financial or other support to such groups is not readily known, but some units of management do offer modest grant-aid (usually in the form of launching grants) to groups operating in their districts. Both the Department of Education and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive may assist groups by the provision of spare capacity in schools and the letting of dwellings or the leasing of land at nominal rent to permit such groups to carry out their activities.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what figures are available to indicate nursery education provision in each board area.

The numbers of available places in 1987–88 are as follows:

Board AreaIn nursery schoolsIn nursery classes in primary schoolsTotals

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will provide details of the financial or other assistance given to pre-school playgroups by (a) each health and social services board and (b) each education and library board.

In addition to contacts with pre-school playgroups in connection with registration procedures required under the Children and Young Persons Act (NI) 1968, the health and social services boards provided financial assistance as follows in the year ended 31 March 1987:

Northern Board75,054
Southern Board31,361
Eastern Board823,948
Western Board142,837
Northern Ireland total1,073,200
Education and library boards provide no assistance to pre-school playgroups.