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Converts to partnership

ONE OF the authorities that piloted nursery vouchers with the avowed intention of showing they were unworkable, is now a convinced believer in the virtues of partnership.

North Ayrshire was the first council to advertise places in private nurseries and playgroups alongside its own centres. Two-thirds of parents opt for local authority centres and a third for private schools and playgroups.

North Ayrshire pays pound;1,030 for each place it commissions, almost the full Government grant. Lesley Owens, head of pre-five services, said: "We give the private centres and playgroups the same service in resourcing, staff training and follow-up to HMI reports as we do for own schools."

In East Ayrshire, peace appears to have broken out in one of the battlegrounds between the private and local authority sectors.

Meg Macleod, SINA convener in the west of Scotland, who owns the 109-place Beechwood nursery in Kilmarnock, says she is satisfied with the decision to accept a partnership in the expansion of nursery places for four-year-olds as well as three-year-olds.

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