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Nursery charges spread despite parent backlash

Two more west of Scotland councils look set to introduce nursery charges. The news comes as Glasgow, which introduced charges just three weeks ago, was forced into a review.

West Dunbartonshire has told neighbouring councils that a Pounds 70 per week charge will apply from August to all pre-fives who live outwith its boundaries.

Inverclyde has confirmed it is considering charges "along similar lines to Glasgow". But Elinor Henderson, the council's head of pre-fives, says that talks with headteachers and parents are at "a very early stage".

Education officials predict that more councils will announce charges this August. Danny McCafferty, West Dunbartonshire's education convener, said that because nursery schools were funded by council tax children of residents had to be given priority. Reciprocal agreements with other councils, particularly over special needs, will remain, "No local authority has the capacity to be totally self-sufficient," Mr McCafferty said.

Neighbouring authorities will be asked to pay for children referred to one of West Dunbartonshire's 23 nursery units by social work and psychological services. Otherwise parents will be billed.

Inverclyde is considering a nominal charge for all parents with a child attending the council's 15 pre-five units.

Glasgow was the first council to introduce charges to cushion the effects of Pounds 12 million of education cuts. Parents on income support were asked to pay 50p a week, rising to Pounds 3 for those in employment. A Pounds 5 half-day charge was levied on children from outside the city who take up around 400 places. Following resistance from parents and nursery staff, Margaret Dobie, Glasgow's pre-fives officer, pledged: "The doors are being kept open."

Parents of 100 children from East Dunbartonshire have unsuccessfully asked the council to subsidise charges made by Glasgow. Ian Mills, East Dunbartonshire's director of education, said: "Our priority is to increase provision in our own area."

In South Lanarkshire, however, the council has agreed to pick up the bill. Some children had found themselves outwith Glasgow due to council boundary changes.

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