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MINISTER RESPONDS TO LABOUR ATTACK ON VOUCHERS

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A system with firm and robust quality guarantees, but without heavy handed red tape is the aim of the government's ...
A system with firm and robust quality guarantees, but without heavy handed red tape is the aim of the government's scheme for pre-five provision, Scottish education spokesman Raymond Robertson said yesterday in a letter to Labour MP for Monklands East, Helen Liddell.

The full text of the letter is:

'Your letter about our pre-school education initiative hides behind the tired jargon of political abuse, using such terms as 'charade' and 'con- trick'. But I am afraid that it shows no different conception of pre-school education, only the opposition's bankruptcy of ideas.

'You demand assurances about assessment of the pilot, as if the government had refused it. Yet what would be the point of a pilot without proper monitoring and evaluation? It is self evident that if we propose a pilot we intend to use it to learn as much as possible to inform nationwide introduction of the initiative.

'You say that light touch inspection is not acceptable - yet at the same time you suggest that our proposals are bureaucratic. You must make up your mind. What we intend is a system which has firm and robust quality guarantees, but not one which is tangled heavy handedly in red tape. It is important that the handling of vouchers, too, should be simple and straightforward; and we have engaged an experienced firm to do this with all the economies of scale that national operation affords.

'We will have ample time to discuss your more detailed questions as the legislation goes (openly and accountably) through Parliament. But I must add a word about the pace we are moving at. You will know that at an EIS conference in Glasgow last week we were accused not of rushing the pre-five proposals (as you suggest), but of delaying them in a machiavellian attempt to save public money. I am left feeling that if we are attacked both for going too fast and for going too slowly, we have probably got things about right.'

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