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Credit scheme will support pre-school places for all children 27 March 2012

A Government-funded credit system to encourage pre-school provision for all the Island’s children has been identified as the way forward by the Council of Ministers working party looking at the future of nursery education.

Under the scheme all families will be entitled to a credit of £350 per year per child towards the cost of attending privately-run facilities, with an additional £800 for those who would be entitled to Free School Meals making a total of £1,150 annual support for children from the poorest homes.

he scheme, which has been given the go-ahead by the Council of Ministers, is expected to come into effect this autumn to replace the current system of free pre-schooling provided directly by the Department of Education and Children, which only caters for just over half of eligible children.

Education Minister Peter Karran MHK, who chaired the working party, explained:

‘The debate about pre-school education has highlighted its value for all children, not just those fortunate enough to find places in the current post-code lottery, which has nothing to do with need or income and is all about where you happen to live. In the present financial climate it is simply impossible for Government to extend its direct provision, which would involve spending a lot more money at a time when we have a lot less coming in, and in any case we do not have additional premises. The only practical alternative is to effectively privatise the service and then use some of the money saved to support pre-school places for all families, with extra help for those on the lowest incomes. When Government funding is restricted it is fairer to offer some support for all children, albeit limited, rather than to provide free places for one half of the community and nothing for the other half.’

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