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Voucher proposals for Wales

Parents in Wales should be able to cash in pre-school vouchers on a half-termly basis, according to a consultation document published by the Welsh Office, writes Linda Blackburne.

The document, which has been sent to education and social services directors in Wales, sets out the Government's preschool voucher scheme for four-year-olds. The proposal for half-termly exchange of vouchers, which the paper states is intended to "allow parents the flexibility to change providers in-year (andor) choose a mix of provision," is likely to prove controversial and to confirm fears of early-years experts that the scheme will upset long-term planning.

The Welsh Office also offers two options for redeeming the vouchers in the local authority sector (where the vast majority of four-year-olds in Wales are educated). The first is that schools would receive, directly or via LEAs, the full voucher value of Pounds 1,100 for each place provided. The second is that the cash value of all vouchers exchanged for places in an authority would be given to the LEA to distribute to schools under its normal funding arrangements.

The Welsh Office also invites comments on an alternative to the deregistration of preschools which fail inspections, which provides for up to three annual inspections before removal from the register.

The Scottish Office published its consultation paper on vouchers last month but proposals for England have not yet been revealed.

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