HC Deb 16 May 1978 vol 950 cc93-4W
25. Mr. Beith

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she is satisfied that sufficient use is being made of surplus accommodation in primary schools to extend the availability of nursery education.

Miss Margaret Jackson

My right hon. Friend is not satisfied, but there has nevertheless been substantial progress. Since 1974 more than 1,500 new nursery classes have been established, providing places for an extra 62,000 children. She believes that authorities are well aware of the economic merits of using surplus primary school space for nursery education.

31. Mr. Thorne

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans she has to develop the provision of nursery education within the Lancashire area through further capital input in 1979–80.

Miss Margaret Jackson

My right hon. Friend can make resources available nationally only for the development of nursery education. It is for each local education authority to decide whether to make use of the resources provided. Lancashire, in common with other LEAs, will be invited later in the year to bid for capital allocations from the 1979–80 nursery education building programme.

Mr. Clemitson

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is her policy towards the proposal for a voluntary contribution from parents whose children attend nursery schools, in the light of the scheme proposed by the Bedfordshire Education Authority which is due to begin on 8th May.

Miss Margaret Jackson

Section 61 of the Education Act 1944 make it quite clear that nursery education must be provided free of charge. There is, however, nothing to stop an LEA which is so inclined from accepting gifts of money and, it would seem, from setting up collecting boxes for the receipt of such gifts. But if it does so, it must leave parents in no doubt that they are under no obligation to make a contribution in respect of the education that their child is receiving. The appropriate way for local authorities to raise funds to provide the services needed for their area is through the rate demand. I hope that we shall not see the spread of collecting boxes or anything which might be construed as soliciting for money.