HC Deb 09 February 1978 vol 943 cc683-4W
16. Mr. Sandelson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the scale of provision for the under fives in Northern Ireland; and what plans he has to increase such provision.

Mr. Carter

In July 1977 an interdepartmental discussion paper entitled "Day Care and Education for the Under Fives" was issued to all interested bodies in Northern Ireland. This paper set out in detail the current level of provision and underlined the need for a rapid improvement in the situation.

About 4,200 children attend nursery schools or nursery classes in Northern Ireland, either full-time or part-time. In addition, about 18,500 4-year-olds are enrolled in primary schools. Further places are being provided in nursery schools and classes as financial circumstances permit, and it is hoped that an additional 1,100 nursery places will become available in the next year or so. Some 10,000 children under 5 benefit from child-minding services, mainly preschool playgroups. A substantial programme of expansion has already begun in the day-care field.

On the basis of the response to the inter-departmental discussion paper, the Government intend to issue a policy document setting the direction for the future development of all of these services.