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Early-years fear

Helen Penn (TES, July 28) argues that "we need to review, reorganise and revitalise early childhood services" and to "rethink nursery education". She rightly says that too much nursery education provision is part-time, and not flexible enough to meet diverse needs.

Members of the National Campaign for Nursery Education answering a questionnaire last year highlighted similar concerns. In particular, they were concerned about the move to more part-time rather than full-time places (as local education authorities attempt to meet the growing demand); the shortage of specialist early-years teachers; pressures on the nursery curriculum, and the very short period many children are able to attend nursery education.

We have in the UK some excellent examples of the kind of integrated, flexible, developmentally appropriate service we would all wish to see - for example, combined nursery centres and nursery schools and classes with extended day provision. However, these forms of provision staffed by qualified teachers and nursery nurses are expensive to run. In the absence of substantial Government funding, LEAs have been unable to develop a coherent under-fives policy.

This is why the Government's proposals are so disappointing. They will discriminate against those families who most need high-quality provision; they will threaten local attempts to plan, develop and co-ordinate services, and they will, if standards are lowered through deregulation, undermine the quality of existing nursery education.

MARGARET LALLY Chair National Campaign for Nursery Education London WC1

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