9. What assessment she has made of the potential merits of allowing nursery schools to become academies. 
Many maintained nursery schools are delivering high-quality early education, often in disadvantaged areas where that provision can make the greatest difference. Our aim is to improve parent access to high-quality early-years provision, enable a diverse market and ensure that nurseries are part of that market. However, the current legislation does not allow maintained nursery schools to become academies, but we will keep that under review.
I welcome the Minister’s response—or I think I do—that this is going to be kept under review. Too many maintained nursery schools—centres of excellence anchored, for the most part, in the poorest communities in the country—have been lost under successive Governments. Would not academy status give them the opportunity to ensure that they continue to help the Government in raising standards for all and, most importantly, closing the gap between outcomes for rich and poor?
I welcome the enthusiasm of the Chairman of the Education Committee for maintained nurseries. I have visited Pen Green maintained nursery in Corby, which is an excellent example. He mentioned harnessing their quality. We have invested £5.5 million in teaching schools so that maintained nurseries can spearhead this and help to spread quality across the sector. He is right to indicate that 4,000 schools have benefited from academy status. As I said, we will keep the situation under review as opportunities arise to reconsider the legislative framework for maintained nurseries.
Many nursery schools would like to become co-operatives but, by law, they are not currently allowed to do so. I welcome the Secretary of State’s interest in this area. May I press the Minister on allowing for an amendment to be made to the Deregulation Bill? That could happen very quickly and it would allow nurseries to join other schools in becoming co-operatives.
The Secretary of State rightly takes an interest in this. In fact, all members of the Government recognise the quality of maintained nursery schools, and we will take all necessary steps to make sure that they can grow and continue to thrive.