Nursery Chance for All; 650,000 Places Mean Every Child Can Start Learning at Four, Say Ministers

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Byline: PAUL EASTHAM

EVERY four-year-old will be offered a free nursery place from September, it was announced yesterday.

More than enough places -650,000 in all - had been created for all parents who wanted them for their children, said Ministers.

Launching the scheme, Education minister Estelle Morris declared: 'Today is a landmark day. It is the first time in this country's history that any Government has been able to guarantee to all parents that their child can have an early-years education, if they wish.' From September, parents of four-year-olds would be able to get five half-days a week.

They will be able to choose from a list including at least some private nurseries and voluntary playgroups as well as local authority-maintained nursery and reception classes.

'There is a surplus of places so everyone will get a choice', added the Minister.

The scheme was hailed by Labour as the fulfilment of a key election manifesto pledge. It replaces the last Tory Government's voucher scheme, which gave parents [pounds sterling]1,100 a year to buy whatever approved nursery provision they chose.

The money will now go to local authorities who have a duty to find a nursery place for every child requiring one. Ministers said the new approach would provide at least 60,000 new places. …