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Nursery Vouchers

Volume 281: debated on Tuesday 16 July 1996

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) how many parents of four-year-olds there are in each of the pilot local education authorities; how many vouchers have been issued in each local education authority; and what research she plans to identify which parents are still not receiving vouchers; [37110](2) how many vouchers have been issued to parents of four-year-olds in the pilot areas; how many of these have been redeemed; what is the total cash value of the unredeemed vouchers; and if the cash value of the unredeemed vouchers will be retained by the Exchequer. [37107]

The following table shows estimates of the number of eligible children in each of the phase 1 authorities. These estimates of population and pupil numbers are less reliable when broken down both by local authority area and by year group. The figures for the number of vouchers issued are for the summer term only and relate to the period to 8 July. The figures for redemption relate only to the first half of the summer term. Research on parents and their use of vouchers will be part of a wider project on phase 1 to be undertaken in the early autumn.

Local education authorityEstimated Number of eligible childrenNumber of vouchers issuedNumber of voucher parts redeemedValue of vouchers redeemed (£)Value of unredeemed vouchers (£)
Norfolk9,3008,97936,9101,353,490273,192
Kensington and Chelsea1,6501,1294,868178,51028,493
Wandsworth3,3003,11012,968475,53794,682
Westminster1,9001,3915,458200,14554,895

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what research projects are (a) planned and (b) in progress to evaluate the pilot phase of the nursery voucher scheme; and in each case what is (i) the objective of the research project, (ii) the budget allocated, (iii) the timeframe and (iv) the expected date of publication of the research findings. [37104]

The research projects relating to phase 1 of the nursery education voucher scheme are:

Parents survey: (i) to assess the effectiveness of the publicity campaign for, and attitudes to, phase 1 of the nursery education voucher scheme, and provide guidance on publicity for phase 2; (ii) £41,500; (iii) conducted in March-April 1996; (iv) report placed in Library on 8 July 1996.
Providers survey: (i) to assess levels of awareness and experience of, and attitudes to, the voucher scheme and the information campaign for phase 1; (ii) £47,500; (iii) June 1996; (iv) report to be placed in the Library shortly.
In addition data on the issue and redemption of vouchers will be analysed termly, and will include the number of vouchers issued, the number redeemed and patterns of redemption.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what proportion of parents in each of the pilot local education authorities have been found to be not in favour of the nursery voucher scheme. [37109]

In the survey of parents conducted shortly before the nursery education voucher scheme started in the phase 1 areas, the following proportions of parents rated the scheme unfavourably overall:

  • Norfolk: 13 per cent.
  • Kensington and Chelsea: 33 per cent.
  • Westminster: 27 per cent.
  • Wandsworth: 24 per cent.
In Norfolk, where 87 per cent. of parents judged the scheme to be "very or quite good", parents were found to be better informed about the scheme than in the other areas.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what proportion of parents, in each of the participating local education authorities, were found to believe that they had not had enough information about the voucher scheme. [37111]

At the time of the parental survey conducted in the four phase 1 areas of the nursery education voucher scheme, 94 per cent. of parents were aware of the scheme. Overall, six in 10 parents wanted to know more. A breakdown by LEA is as follows:

  • Norfolk: 57 per cent.
  • Kensington and Chelsea: 65 per cent.
  • Wandsworth: 45 per cent.
  • Westminster: 73 per cent.
The finding has already been taken into account in the dissemination of information for the remainder of phase 1 and in planning for phase 2.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment when she expects to have sufficient evidence on the operation of the pilot phase of the voucher scheme to be able to draw firm conclusions for any changes needed before the scheme is extended nationally. [37106]

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what was the total budget allocated to phase one of the voucher scheme broken down into budget headings; and in which areas actual spending has exceeded projected spending. [37108]

In the financial year 1996–97, £17.8 million has been allocated to cover the cost of vouchers for every eligible child in the phase 1 authorities. A total of £10.8 million of this money has been found from existing LEA budgets, the remainder is new money. In addition £5 million has been allocated for setting up the inspection regime, training inspectors for both phases of the scheme and for administration for phase 1 of the scheme. A total of £300,000 has been allocated for providing information to parents and providers in phase 1. None of these budgets has been exceeded.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, pursuant to her answer of 8 May, Official Report, column 148, in respect of each local authority participating in the pilot phase of the voucher scheme, how many four-year-olds have been enrolled who did not have a voucher at the time of their enrolment; and how many applications have been made by providers on behalf of such children. [37469]

The number of children who did not have a voucher at the time of their enrolment is not held centrally. Maintained schools in Norfolk have so far made 56 special applications for such children, and there have been 62 applications by schools in Kensington and Chelsea, 93 in Wandsworth and 61 in Westminster. Overall, less than 2 per cent. of the applications have been made in this way.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, pursuant to her answer of 22 April, Official Report, column 48, what proportion of the vouchers that have been redeemed to date, have been redeemed in (a) the private sector, (b) the voluntary sector and (c) the maintained sector. [37471]

As of 5 July, 64 per cent. of voucher parts had been redeemed by providers in the maintained sector and 36 per cent. by those in the private and voluntary sectors taken together.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, pursuant to her answer of 8 May, Official Report, column 149, how many voucher-bearing four-year-olds have been accepted by the 40 providers who did not accept four-year-olds prior to initial validation. [37468]

A total of 110 voucher-bearing four-year-olds attend those providers who did not have any four-year-olds on roll at the time of initial registration.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, pursuant to her answer of 22 April, Official Report, column 48, how many of the providers now accepting voucher-bearing children, are able to offer such children (a) one session, (b) two sessions and (c) three or more sessions, per week. [37470]

Records are not held of the number of sessions offered by providers, only of those provided. The following table shows the number of sessions attended by children, taken from voucher returns made by 11 June.

Number of sessions attendedPupils attending one providerPupils attending two or more providers
One350
Two3431
Three or more10,826592
Providers offering only one session cannot join the scheme.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what estimate he has made of the number of parents who have changed their choice of provider as a result of the voucher scheme. [37404]

The only evidence currently available comes from the survey of parents conducted just before the summer term, where, at this early stage in the nursery education voucher scheme, few reported changing their choice of provider. The expectation is that, over time, a larger number of places of differing types will be created in order to match parental demand.