HC Deb 03 May 1971 vol 816 cc992-4
13. Mr. Denzil Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he has any plans to accelerate the provision of nursery schools in Wales.

Mr. Peter Thomas

Priority at this stage is being given to the replacement of inadequate pre-1903 primary schools. Later I hope that we shall be able to turn to the needs of nursery education. I will, however, continue to develop nursery education in areas of special need.

Mr. Davies

Since it seems that only a minute proportion of children in Wales are able to take advantage of nursery education, and since it is now generally recognised that the years from two to five are crucial for a child's development, is it not time the Government started to show the same urgency in this matter as they seem to show in trying to assist public schools by tax concessions for those who are well able to look after themselves?

Mr. Peter Thomas

Priority at this stage must be given to improving the facilities for children of compulsory school age who are already in primary school. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the urban aid programme, which greatly assists the development of nursery education in areas of special need. At the moment we should concentrate on the primary schools.

Mr. Fred Evans

Does the Minister not appreciate that every practising teacher knows that it is futile to over-expend in the 11-plus sector unless provision against inadequate home background and many other social factors is made at an early stage? Is he aware that the teachers in this section of education are the inheritors of a grave legacy which will continue unless something is done? Will he not admit that it is the differential between the cost of providing one nursery place compared with one primary or secondary school place that is the decisive factor in this matter?

Mr. Peter Thomas

These are the sort of matters that are considered. The hon. Gentleman probably knows that in many areas in Wales it is customary to admit under-fives into primary schools. In January, 1970, for example, about 57 per cent. of the four-year-old age group were in primary schools.