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Breed early, breed often - and go private

The burgeoning private nursery sector has added greatly to the gaiety of the education world. We are now getting used to exotic places like the Pied Piper Playcare Centres, Big Bird Nursery, Rocking Horse Nursery, Jack in the Box Nursery, Hopscotch Nurseries, Rascals Pre-school Nursery, Sunshine Nursery, Red Apple Nursery, Happy Days Too. It goes without saying that there is a First Class Nursery.

By now readers will have gathered that Jotter had business last week with the Scottish Independent Nurseries' Association, to wit its annual conference where the aforementioned big birds and little rascals were running around, or at least their teachers were.

The private sector is now such a key player that it managed to lure Elizabeth Maginnis into the lion's den (page five). The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities' education spokesperson was on her best behaviour and, if she mentioned partnership once she must have done so in every paragraph. (We hereby invite readers to submit entries containing copious references to partnership. The first, from ourselves, appears here this week.) The organisers left the audience in no doubt about the speakers, issuing helpful notes on their background. Maginnis, for example, has one granddaughter "at present" (do they know something we don't?).

Speakers clearly won acclaim if they had brought nursery customers into the world. Christine Riach, Dundee's early years adviser, has four sons and is therefore "a conspicuous consumer" of child care and education. We were informed that Liz Irvine, a health specialist at Napier University, sent her two children to "a happy, small private nursery". And Sophie Dow, a native of Sweden, made a contribution to the Scottish pre-school sector by moving to Edinburgh with her "young family".

Full marks to the association for these reminders that professionals support education in more ways than one. Liz Irvine brought children to the fore in a different way with an overhead which revealed the way four-year-olds planned to keep themselves healthy and alive: "eat lots of vegtibals"; "medson keeps me healthy"; "exisis keeps me healthy"; "don't glue snif"; and more dramatically, "don't fall down the toylet".

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