HC Deb 24 March 2003 vol 402 c43W
Mr. Steinberg

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to(a) protect and (b) extend the role of existing maintained nurseries. [103027]

Maria Eagle

The Department is now consulting on proposals for guidance to School Organisation Committees (SOCs). The guidance will include a presumption against closure of Maintained Nursery Schools. The new guidance is expected to come into force in June 2003.

We are actively encouraging Maintained Nursery Schools to develop and extend their services. The nursery school development grant and the forum for Maintained Nursery Schools are key drivers for supporting this. Some Local Authorities will be considering how Maintained Nursery Schools might be involved with the children's centres programme.

Statutory governance for Maintained Nursery Schools which comes into force in September 2003 will put them on an equivalent footing to schools and grant them similar discretion. The devolved budgets which Maintained Nursery Schools will have from April 2004 will also afford increased autonomy and opportunity.