Nursery vouchers intended to retrieve revenue

31st May 1996 at 01:00
Elizabeth Botwright's letter ("Vouchers for empty seats", TES, May 17) is based on a misconception. I would like to put the record straight. The Government's plans for changing the funding arrangements for four-year-olds will not affect funding for three-year-olds and under.

Of course the Government's plans for change to the standard spending asessment (SSA) to support the introduction of nursery education vouchers for four-year-olds will have an impact on local education authorities. The Government expects to see LEAs adapt to the introduction of nursery education vouchers. Our plans for giving parents the ability to select the educational provision that best suits their child form part of our commitment to extending choice and diversity. The method we plan to use for reducing LEAs' SSA has been chosen to ensure that every authority can, by maintaining their current number of four-year-old pupils, regain all that income through the redemption of vouchers. This Government would not seek to reduce choice by taking away funding for other age groups.

We are putting into education for four-year-olds an extra Pounds 165 million per year. The injection of this money will, I am confident, lead to an expansion in nursery provision so that a place will become available over time for every four-year-old child whose parents want one.

The Government is showing a commitment to extending and improving the diversity of choice available to parents. We are not doing this by reducing funding for provision for three-year-olds, but through extra resources for four-year-olds.

ROBIN SQUIRE MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Department for Education and Employment

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