Pre-school proposals out for consultation

4th July 1997 at 01:00
Childminders will be able to set up pre-schools and all nurseries and playgroups will be supervised by a qualified teacher, if draft government guidance is approved.

The consultation document on nursery education follows the abolition of the Conservative voucher scheme. It will provide the framework for Labour's promise of a free place from next March for every four-year-old whose parents want it .

The paper, which was sent to education directors today, demonstrates that the Government wants to see more coherence in early education and child care, and is interested in networks of childminders being included in a structured programme of training.

This is good news for the National Childminding Association, which failed to persuade the Conservative government that their members should be able to accept nursery vouchers.

The plans will be developed by education authorities, private and voluntary nurseries and playgroups working in partnership. Estelle Morris, education junior minister, has already warned that proposals which alienate the private and voluntary sectors will not be approved.

The qualified supervisory teachers should be early years specialists, says the guidance, adding: "This is intended to raise standards, not to impose the same philosophy on all providers, or even to be a device to exclude certain providers from participating in the plan."

The Government envisages schemes such as a state school "loaning " a teacher to the private sector, nurseries buying in a teacher as a consultant, and a national umbrella body, such as the Pre-school Learning Alliance, employing teachers as field workers or advisers.

Early-years groups have been asked to comment on the draft guidance by September 26. Final guidance will be published in October.

Education authorities had to submit interim plans on providing nursery places for all four-year-olds on July 1. This week's consultation paper addresses the development of nursery education for 1998-99.

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