HC Deb 08 February 1968 vol 758 cc629-31
1. Mr. J. E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will test the validity of the Plowden Committee's recommendations for nursery education in the priority areas by authorising the setting up of some pilot nursery group centres.

Miss Bacon

I should naturally like to see some further development of nursery education, especially in educational priority areas. But there are no resources available for this or other new development at the present time.

Mr. Hill

Does not the Minister of Slate realise that, to get the basis for future policy and educational priorities right, it is essential to test out striking new recommendations? Will not she have regard to the two in Plowden which are all-important—first, that the significance of nursery education is even greater in educational priority areas than in others, and, secondly, the use of nursery assistants to make a better spread of skilled trained nursery teachers in organising the groups?

Miss Bacon

There are some nursery classes. Others can be inaugurated where married women teachers are returning to teaching. We should all like to see more nursery classes, but quite apart from the cost involved it would mean a drain on the teachers in the primary schools if we were to have any great extension.

Miss Lestor

Bearing in mind that, since the, party opposite curtailed the development of nursery education, there has been very little expansion in this sector during the past few years, may I ask my right hon. Friend to consider the possibility of holding discussions with the Minister of Health with a view to bringing the play group movement more under the umbrella of the Department of Education and Science, thus raising educational standards and increasing the provision particularly in educational priority areas?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Every long supplementary question cuts out another one.

Miss Bacon

That is a valuable suggestion, but, as my hon. Friend knows, we are expecting the report of the Seebohm Committee shortly, which will deal with all the personal services at local authority level.

Sir E. Boyle

Is the right hon. Lady saying that none of the extra money announced by her party for the priority areas can be devoted to nursery education? If so, we should consider that too dogmatic and definite a line.

Miss Bacon

That is another question. We are at present looking at the schemes which have come to us from local authorities in educational priority areas, and we hope to announce the result shortly. The right hon. Gentleman will agree that to have nursery education allowed in some areas but not in others would create great difficulties.

20. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress has been made by his architects in the design of a cheap, mobile nursery unit, suitable for adding to infants' schools, as a means of carrying out the Plowden proposals for nursery education.

Miss Bacon

Some progress has been made with theoretical design studies, but they do not aim at mobility, and estimated costs would be comparable with ordinary primary schools.

Mrs. Short

Will my right hon. Friend press ahead with this? I have brought a delegation to meet her and her predecessor on this question, and I very much hope that progress will be made.

Miss Bacon

With regard to the designs which my hon. Friend has in mind, I shall be happy if any local authority contemplating replacing existing nursery accommodation within its minor works allocation undertakes the experiment which my hon. Friend would like.