HC Deb 20 December 1988 vol 144 cc274-5
8. Ms. Mowlam

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether his Department has any plans to increase the number or nursery teachers; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Rumbold

Target places for primary initial teacher training will have increased by more than 60 per cent. between 1983 and 1989. Within their allocations, institutions have been asked to give greater emphasis to training for the early years, which includes nursery teaching.

Ms. Mowlam

Will the Minister assure the House that the training that will be offered to those additional teachers will qualify them fully in specific teaching for three to five-year-olds and will not be just general training? We wish to be sure that the specific needs of three to five-year-olds are taken into account in such training.

Mrs. Rumbold

Training for the early years, which is being undertaken by many teachers, will include the matters that the hon. Lady has mentioned.

Mr. Robert B. Jones

Will my hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the voluntary nursery sector? Will she ensure that, when promoting nursery education, local authorities do not undermine the voluntary sector, as the dogmatic Hertfordshire county council is doing at Wigginton and Grove Hill in my constituency?

Mrs. Rumbold

Uniquely in Britain we have a wide choice of pre-school education, which is extremely important and valuable to children and their parents. I agree with my hon. Friend that that choice should be maintained.

Ms. Armstrong

Does the Minister recognise that there are grave shortages of nursery teachers in many areas? As the Secretary of State supported the Prime Minister when she pledged that 50 per cent. of three-year-olds and 90 per cent. of four-year-olds would have nursery places, will the Minister spell out the action that the Government will take to achieve that target?

Mrs. Rumbold

The hon. Lady may be interested in the following figures. In 1980, shortly after this Government took office, 404,000 three to four-year-olds received pre-school education. That was 37.1 per cent. of the age group. In 1988, the figure rose to 505,000. More than 100,000 more three to four-year-olds are now in school.

Mr. Favell

Does my hon. Friend agree that the person best equipped to teach a three to five-year-old is the mother?

Mrs. Rumbold

My hon. Friend is right to say that the mother is one of the most important people in the child's early development. Children who do not have the benefit of mothers talking to and caring for them are unfortunate. It is most desirable that children also have the opportunity to attend play groups or nursery school.

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