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The school that never closes;Leading Article

NOSES TO the grindstone may be a strange expression for nurseries, but many pre-five establishments remain open far longer than other parts of the education system, with some taking only a few days' holiday a year. Working parents like and need that dedication. They will also be glad that all local authorities are now ready to commission places for four-year-olds in the private and voluntary sectors (page three), so chalking up a victory for parent power.

Until recently a handful of Labour councils were standing out against the Government's concept of partnership to deliver the pledge of places for all four-year-olds, and from 2002 for all three-year-olds as well. The need to find more accommodation and staff has prompted the change, more so than a political change of heart. But parents will welcome wider choice, especially for the youngest children. And the private sector will feel vindicated in its campaign for all parts of the country to treat its schools in the same way.

Not everybody wears a happy smile, however. More provision is creating a staffing and training crisis, as we reported two weeks ago. Classroom assistants sought for primary schools may come from the same pool as new nursery staff. There is a need to reaffirm the role of care staff in nurseries, to maintain, develop and fund training opportunities and to make a reasonably rewarded, as well as rewarding career structure for those who want it. The role of trained teachers in nurseries underscores the urgency of a parallel structure for other staff.

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