Nursery education should become available within the next 10 years to all children of three and four if their parents wish.
This is one of the most far-reaching policy decisions in the government's White Paper on Education, which is published today.
Here's our political correspondent, Richard Wakeley. [end p1]
The Government's proposals for nursery education mean that they're going to have to provide places for 1,400,000 under-fives within the next ten years. But it's only intended that under-fives should go to nursery school for mornings or afternoons.
Even so, another 15,000 teachers will be needed for nursery education alone.
Attendance at the nursery schools will be voluntary, and the schools are meant to supplement existing playgroups. First government grants for the new schools will start in 1974, with priority for areas of social deprivation.
The White Paper is essentially practical—it doesn't go into controversial policy such as the debate between those who want to keep the eleven plus and those who want Britain's schools to go comprehensive. The education minister, Mrs. Thatcher, seems to be staying neutral here. [end p2]
Like her proposals for nursery education, the White Paper's other proposals are fairly widely agreed. For instance there are to be more teachers with more training and qualifications in the state schools—150,000 more teachers by 1981. And there'll be more places for students wanting higher education—especially in polytechnics.
On school buildings, the Government are to make more money available for the rebuilding of old secondary schools for 2 years from 1975—when they hope their primary school improvement programme will have made good progress. I spoke to the education minister, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, about the effects of some of the White Paper's proposals. [end p3]
Mrs. Thatcher, does the increase in the number of teachers you're planning mean that we'll see the end of large classes in the next ten years?
Well I hope so, that's one of the objectives. We have been steadily increasing the numbers of teachers that go into the schools, and this policy will continue. We can't say exactly how a head teacher shall use them. For example, one head teacher might say, “Well, I've got some children who're a little bit behind, I'll put one teacher onto a small group of those, and that will be the best way to help them.” That would mean that other classes would remain larger for a time. But we shall put more teachers into schools, and we'll hope therefore, that class sizes will be reduced.