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Nursery Provision

Volume 404: debated on Thursday 8 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when the Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiative commenced; how many nurseries have (a) been approved and (b) started operating; how much of the available funds have (i) been allocated and (ii) remain unspent; and what his plans are to support the establishment of further nurseries in the most disadvantaged areas. [108556]

We launched the Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiative on 24 July 2001 with a target of creating 45,000 child care places. Our latest figures show that 161 nurseries have opened and a further 1,174 nursery projects have been approved by the local authorities and are in development, bringing the total number of neighbourhood nurseries to 1,335. The entire Neighbourhood Nurseries budget of £346 million has been allocated to those local authorities taking part in the initiative. This includes £100 million of capital from the New Opportunities Fund.We are also making £435 million available to local authorities to develop children centres. This will incorporate nursery provision in the 20 per cent. most disadvantaged areas and will create a further 43,000 child care places by 2006.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans there are to (a) increase and (b) extend the provision of nursery school development funding. [109299]

The Department's nursery school development grant programme, worth £5 million a year, will continue until 2005–06. It provides additional ring-fenced support to help Maintained Nursery Schools develop and extend their services enabling them to take advantage of the wider development and expansion of Neighbourhood Nurseries and Children's Centres.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans are in place to ensure existing Maintained Nursery Schools are protected from the threat of closure. [109300]

The revised school reorganisation guidance which we intend should come into force in June 2003 will include a clear presumption against the closure of Maintained Nursery Schools. The guidance will make clear that closure proposals should not generally be approved, unless the local education authority (LEA) can demonstrate that the proposals are clearly in the best interests of local children and families and that it has duly considered:

the quantity, quality, value for money and convenience to parents (in hours offered) of provision at the individual nursery school, and proposed replacement provision;
the impact of the potential loss to the locality of the nursery school's experience and knowledge in delivering early years education; and
alternatives to closure.