HC Deb 02 March 1987 vol 111 cc574-5
4. Mr. D. E. Thomas

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many pre-school age children attend local-authority funded nursery schools in Wales; and what percentage of the children of their age group they represent.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

At January 1986 about 3,900 pupils were attending local authority-funded nursery schools in Wales. That represents about 5½ per cent. of 3 and 4-year-olds. Many more children of that age—nearly 64 per cent. —are in the nursery classes of primary schools.

Mr. Thomas

Is it the Government's policy that all children of pre-statutory school age should attend nursery provision, to develop their educational and social skills and to take stress off the parents, many of whom are working or are one-parent families and have problems in coping with young children?

Mr. Roberts

The number of nursery units has increased considerably during the period of this Government. From 1979–80 to 1985–86 the number increased from 563 nursery units to 673, which is a rise in full-time pupils from 29,000 to 41,000, so it is clearly the Government's policy.

Mr. Best

What is the policy of the Welsh Office towards funding of Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin? What efforts is my hon. Friend's Department making to ensure that parental wishes are observed as to the medium through which children are taught?

Mr. Roberts

Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin, the Welsh language nursery school movement, receives support from the Government — currently about £360,000 a year. It has increased the number of groups to some 700 in Wales. It has made tremendous progress. As to the medium of teaching and parental influence in schools, my hon. Friend will know that the Government have taken steps to increase parental influence, and a further step will be taken as from the autumn this year.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Does the Minister agree that the scheme known as Play Board Wales has an excellent record of achievement? Will he give a commitment for future funding to Play Board Wales so that it will not have to be wound up at the end of the current financial year?

Mr. Roberts

I am not familiar with the details of the application by Play Board Wales, but I shall consider them.

Mr. Barry Jones

In the nursery sector, cuts and closures have been proposed, not least in my constituency at Shotton, Aston and Buckley. Will the Minister take advice and give the £1.3 million grant which is proposed for public schools in Wales to the LEAs for nursery education.

Mr. Roberts

As to the last fact, I hope that the hon. Gentleman realises that the figure to which he referred—the amount which is given to the approved assisted places scheme—is 0.126 per cent. of the total spent on education in Wales. With regard to the Shotton nursery school, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, I can make no comment because no proposals have been published.