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SPTC to vet nursery vouchers

The Scottish Parent Teacher Council, one of the sternest critics of the Government's nursery voucher scheme, has agreed to join an evaluation team in Labour-run North Ayrshire.

Judith Gillespie, the council's convener, has accepted an invitation to help assess the pilot phase in North Ayrshire, an area of the former Strathclyde Region that was badly served by nursery provision.

Mrs Gillespie said: "I am delighted to be involved because this gives clear evidence the evaluation will be open and have the interest of parents at the heart of it. I will be making sure the right questions are asked. Pilots always work because everyone puts so much effort into making them work. But I will be asking if this would work without the extra effort."

A team from Stirling University's education department led by Professor Sally Brown has won the Scottish Office contract to assess the four pilots in North Ayrshire, East Renfrewshire, Highland and Argyll and Bute.

Raymond Robertson, the Education Minister, said this week he was encouraged by the response of parents, who have until the end of June to apply for a voucher worth Pounds 1,100 which they can hand over to the centre of their choice before the summer holidays. If they fail to respond, they will lose their chance of pre-school education.

The Scottish Office confirmed that parents would be sent a voucher booklet before the start of the autumn term. Each booklet will contain five vouchers to cover part-time sessions for each term.

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