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Welsh secretary William Hague has welcomed the nursery education and grant-maintained schools bill published yester...
Welsh secretary William Hague has welcomed the nursery education and grant-maintained schools bill published yesterday as another significant step in the government's drive to increase parental choice and diversity in education in Wales.

The bill will pave the way for the introduction of a voucher scheme for nursery education for four year olds, and for grant-maintained schools to borrow from the private sector.

Mr Hague said: 'The voucher scheme which this bill will enable the government to introduce will help make nursery education available to all four year olds in Wales and stimulate greater parental choice in the type of education parents want for their children, whether it be in the public, voluntary or private sector.

'The borrowing powers which it will make available to grant-maintained schools will give those schools even greater freedom and flexibility to manage their own affairs and put them on a par with institutions in the further and higher education sectors. It will stimulate greater investment in the grant-maintained sector and encourage private finance initiative schemes.'

On the question of introducing a fast-track option to grant-maintained status for voluntary-aided schools, Mr Hague acknowledged that the churches and schools concerned had made clear that they did not want any dispensation from existing arrangements for applying for grant-maintained status:

'We recognise and accept the views expressed during our consultation on the issue. There is therefore no need to include anything on procedures for acquiring grant-maintained status in this bill.'

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