§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes
asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will now make a statement on the report of the Council for the Welsh Language on nursery education.
§ Mr. John Morris
The first report of the Council for the Welsh Language on "Welsh in Nursery Education" offers clear guidance on the part that nursery education has to play in furthering the education of our children through the334W medium of the Welsh language. It presents a carefully argued case for Welsh medium nursery education which I commend for thorough consideration by local education authorities, teachers and parents.
I have already put in hand action to further nursery education and playgroups in Wales. In June of last year I confirmed the allocation of over £1 million to enable local education authorities to undertake the first stage of the Government's programme for a general expansion of nursery education. I am now able to announce that I plan to make further allocations of over £5 million to provide nursery school places over the next four years. With this extra assistance I am satisfied that LEAs are now receiving the resources and guidance which will enable them to act on the recommendations of the council. I urge all education authorities in planning their nursery education to pay particular regard to the linguistic needs of their areas.
As regards playgroups, I accept the council's recommendation that my Department should continue to grant-aid the work of voluntary playgroups in the period pending the availability of maintained nursery education. I announced last year a sharp increase in the grant paid by my Department to Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin and to the Pre-School Playgroups Association. I shall give careful consideration to the recommendation on the level of grant aid and other matters relating to playgroups in Wales.
A number of the report's recommendations apply to matters which are the direct responsibility of local education authorities. I shall seek their views through the Welsh Joint Education Committee and the teacher associations in Wales. Following these consultations I shall consider what further steps my Department should take to encourage Welsh-medium nursery education, and of bilingual education in general.