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Pounds 1 charge for new nursery places

East Ayrshire has moved swiftly to pacify parents following the closure of five primary schools by announcing what is described as a major expansion of nursery education. But parents will have to foot a Pounds 150,000 bill to create up to 200 extra pre-school places at two nursery schools and three primaries this year.

The council will charge parents a nominal fee of Pounds 1 for each morning or afternoon session. Those on benefit will be exempt. Families that have a second child at nursery will only pay half the charge while those with a third child attending will pay nothing.

Tom Farrell, who chairs the council's education committee, said: "A considerable number of parents have told me that they are more than willing to make a modest contribution for the pre-five service. People recognise that there is no other reasonable way of developing it."

John Mulgrew, East Ayrshire's director of education, said the council had targeted the areas of greatest need. The places should be ready by September.

Mr Farrell described the authority's plans as "the first step in a systematic process to provide a nursery place for every child in their pre-school year within the term of this council".

Despite the expansion, East Ayrshire has yet to find a nursery place for 30 per cent of four-year-olds before the local elections in 1999.

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