Complicated answer to simple problem

19th January 1996 at 00:00
A group of Norwich mothers were quick this week to criticise the Government's nursery voucher scheme for four-year-olds.

What was the point of it, they asked. There weren't enough places to make it work. Most four-year-olds were at school anyway.

Deborah Spalding, a 27-year-old lone mother-of-three, said she couldn't afford to top up the Pounds 1,100 voucher and send her child to a private nursery. And even if she could: "In a private nursery they would say they don't want my sort of people. I'm working class."

Norfolk, a rural county with no tradition of nursery education, is keen to expand its limited under-fives service. It believes the complex voucher scheme, which it has agreed to pilot, will provide it with a little extra money.

Deborah said: "I was very lucky to get a nursery place. I got it through our social services because I was having problems anyway being a single parent.

"My impression is that there aren't enough places anyway. Why can't they just put the money into the schools. It's going to be confusing. They're going to put the responsibility on me."

Dawn Bell, 30, said: "A lot of children are already at school when they're four. Round our way they wouldn't benefit."

There are hardly any nurseries in Angela Peacock's area of Norwich. "There's just Brooklands which is private and you would have a job to get there, " said 40-year-old Angela. "There's no where else. The nearest one is 25 minutes' walk - there isn't a bus. It's too far."

Mandy Gould, 26, agreed: "I couldn't shop about. The nearest nursery is five or 10 minutes' walk. There's nothing else nearby."

Vanessa Clarke, 27, reckoned that with one child at school and another at - say Brooklands - there would be no time to do the housework because mothers would be so busy picking up and dropping off their children across the city. She said that the scheme should be for three-year-olds because most four-year-olds were already in school.

Dawn summed up their feelings: "It would just be nice if every state school had a state nursery."

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