HL Deb 10 June 1998 vol 590 cc1140-2

(". After section 509 of the Education Act 1996 there shall be inserted— "Travel arrangements for children receiving nursery education otherwise than at school.

509A.—(1) A local education authority may provide a child with assistance under this section if they are satisfied that, without such assistance, he would be prevented from attending at any premises—

  1. (a) which are not a school or part of a school, but
  2. (b) at which relevant nursery education is provided,
for the purpose of receiving such education there.

(2) The assistance which may be provided for a child under this section consists of either—

  1. (a) making arrangements (whether for the provision of transport or otherwise) for the purpose of facilitating the child's attendance at the premises concerned, or
  2. (b) paying the whole or any part of his reasonable travel expenses.

(3) When considering whether to provide a child with assistance under this section in connection with his attendance at any premises, a local education authority may have regard (among other things) to whether it would be reasonable to expect alternative arrangements to be made for him to receive relevant nursery education at any other premises (whether nearer to his home or otherwise).

(4) Where the assistance to be provided for a child under this section consists of making arrangements for the provision of transport, the authority may, if they consider it appropriate to do so, determine that the assistance shall not be so provided unless—

  1. (a) the child's parent, or
  2. (b) the person providing the relevant nursery education concerned,
agrees to make to the authority such payments in respect of the provision of the transport (not exceeding the cost to the authority of its provision) as they may determine.

(5) In this section "relevant nursery education" means nursery education which is provided—

  1. (a) by a local education authority, or
  2. by any other person—
    1. (i) who is in receipt of financial assistance given by such an authority and whose provision of nursery education is taken into account by the authority in formulating proposals for the purposes of section 113(2)(a) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, or
    2. (ii) who is in receipt of grants under section 1 of the Nursery Education and Grant-Maintained Schools Act 1996." ").

The noble Lord said: The provision of the new clause under this amendment would give a discretionary power to local education authorities to provide transport or help with transport expenses for children travelling to and from settings which provide only part-time education for children under 5. At present, local education authorities have no power whatever to provide such transport.

It is an enabling power. In practice its application and, indeed, whether it is needed will vary from area to area. Nevertheless, we regard it as an important provision which fills a gap in the law. It provides also for LEAs to be able to ask providers and parents to contribute to the costs of transport, which provides additional flexibility which ensures that those who will benefit can work together to reach a solution that will meet everyone's needs.

The subsequent amendment amends Section 509 of the 1996 Act, which requires LEAs to publish details of their nursery transport policy in the same way as they do for other aspects of their transport policy. I hope that the Committee will find these helpful additions to the law which will support greater provision in the nursery sector. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I do not rise to oppose the amendment but giving the local authorities the power to exercise is one thing but giving them the money to exercise it will be another.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 117 agreed to.

Schedule 27 agreed to.

Clause 118 agreed to.

Lord Whitty

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at eleven minutes past eleven o'clock.