HC Deb 13 November 1969 vol 791 cc595-6
13. Mr. Pardoe

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about his Department's support for the Pre-School Playgroups Association.

32. Mr. J. E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will extend the period of the grant, at present limited to three years, towards the salary and expenses of the national advisers on Pre-School Playgroups.

Miss Lestor

The Department's grant to the Pre-School Playgroups Association towards its administrative costs and the provision of an advisory service will be increased from £3,000 this year to £3,500 in 1970–71.

Mr. Pardoe

In view of the immensely valuable work which the asosciation does and the need for full-time professional help in organising valuable voluntary efforts, does the hon. Lady consider that that is a sufficiently generous increase?

Miss Lestor

I think the hon. Gentleman knows that I am a full supporter of the playgroup movement. At present, the whole future of playgroups and the under-fives is under discussion. The Plowden Report recommended that local education authorities should be empowered to aid playgroups, and the Seebohm Report, more recently, recommended that playgroups should be the responsibility of the new Social Services Department. We are considering those recommendations. What changes we can make in our aid in the future will depend on the outcome of the discussions which we hold on the recommendations.

Mr. Hill

What is the hon. Lady doing to encourage the provision of training courses for people who work with playgroups at different levels of qualification, from N.N.E.B. downwards?

Miss Lestor

One of the difficulties regarding the playgroup movement is that it is not really the responsibility of the Department of Education and Science, and that people running playgroups register with the local health authority; but we encourage the setting up of training courses, and many colleges and institutions in various parts of the country are already instituting small or sometimes fairly large training courses for people who wish to run playgroups. I regard this as important.

Mr. Snow

My hon. Friend's work in this matter is recognised throughout the House. Is she aware that in many of the great overspill receiving areas, especially the West Midlands, it is difficult for playgroups to be started because of the lack of suitable accommodation'? Might not other Departments help in this matter?

Miss Lestor

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks, and also—I am sorry that I omitted to do so earlier—the other hon. Members who congratulated me on my appointment.

I accept that there is that difficulty in the development of playgroups. Although local education authorities cannot make grants directly to playgroups, it is possible for them—and many do—to lend equipment and in some instances make accommodation available to the playgroup movement and to people who run playgroups. I hope that they will look into this further and try to renew and increase their efforts in that direction.