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NURSERY VOUCHERS CLOSE PLAY GROUPS

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An educational charity, the Pre-School Learning Alliance, is blaming the nursery voucher scheme launched by the las...
An educational charity, the Pre-School Learning Alliance, is blaming the nursery voucher scheme launched by the last Conservative government for the closure of hundred of pre-school playgroups. It says the closures were caused by primary schools taking in four-year-olds too early.

The alliance says 642 playgroups have already closed. Almost 200 face imminent closure and another 1,400 fear collapse next year. Playgroups, or pre-schools as they are usually known, are usually managed by parents but employ trained staff.

The charity says the voucher scheme encouraged many primary schools to take four-year-olds into reception classes to maximise the voucher income, worth o1,100 per child. It says research suggests children suffer educationally if they start school too early. Although Labour has abolished the voucher scheme from this term the alliance says there is no sign of the threat receding and it wants government action to protect playgroups.

The charity's director, Pat Dench, commented: 'The government is committed to a child care strategy; it is committed to education for parents and families; and that is exactly what pre-schools are about. They are a community resource where not only do young children have the chance of early education, but parents have the opportunity to get back into education themselves.'
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