The Nursery Education and Grant-Maintained Schools Bill gained its third reading in the House of Commons this week, with a Government majority of 34. It introduces nursery vouchers for four-year-olds and allows GM schools to borrow against their assets.
Labour amendments which would have required inspections of premises before vouchers could be redeemed, and another which would have exempted authorities with existing high numbers of places, were defeated.
Iain Mills, the Solihull Conservative who voted against the Government on the exemption amendment (and abstained in the vote on the Bill), said parents in his constituency were satisfied with the service which cost Pounds 1,800 a child. But the Government insisted on a scheme that had no support, he said.
An Opposition amendment which would require resources to be available for four-year-olds with special needs was also defeated. A Government amendment will now give local authorities the power to provide services for special needs in non-maintained schools.
Kenneth Baker, a former education secretary, said he preferred a differential voucher system that would recognise the extra costs involved in teaching children with difficulties.
A Labour attempt to have a GM school's core assets defined by regulation was also defeated. The Bill, which had its first reading in the House of Lords this week, will return for the second reading after the Easter recess.
* One of the UK's largest private education companies, Nord Anglia Education plc, announced this week that it is to expand its nursery provision from its existing 14 sites.