The Government should halt nursery expansion by local education authorities until the consultation period on provision for under- fives is over, according to a right-wing think tank, writes Frances Rafferty.
Sheila Lawlor, deputy director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said local authorities were stealing a march on playgroups and independent nurseries, with the advantage of having funds from the public purse. "The Government's policy is to have a diverse provision giving parents the choice, but at the same time it is approving LEA applications to develop their nursery education. The Government should be helping to build on a variety of provision, not helping to eliminate it," said Dr Lawlor.
Her pamphlet, Nursery Choices: The right way to pre-school education, claims that independent nurseries and play groups are being forced into decline and closure because of "LEA imperialism".
She said vouchers should be available to be used at playgroups, independent or council nurseries. Legislation should also be brought in to require local education authorities to hire out surplus accommodation and facilities to private nurseries.