Parliament & Politics: Education - MPs paint their memories of childhood

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 260 MPs had their painting talents and their memories assessed yesterday by a judging panel put together by the Pre-school Learning Alliance.

The charity, which is building up to a campaign climax next month, has persuaded MPs of all parties in England to visit pre-schools - which cater for under-fives outside mainstream schooling and rely on voluntary funding and grants - talk to parents and children, and paint a childhood memory.

Three pictures were chosen yesterday and the artists will take part in a "paint-off" for the alliance's "From Playdough to Plato" day in London on 12 May.

Margaret Lochrie, chief executive of the charity, said yesterday the competition aimed to highlight the importance of play and learning for children, particularly in areas of poverty and unemployment where facilities at home may be few.

Mrs Lochrie said that of 17,500 pre-schools, 1,500 had closed last year and 1,700 were threatened this year. She added that the introduction of the minimum wage had put a extra burden on many which "were operating on a shoe-string".

Margaret Hodge, Education minister, last month announced an independent review to look at pre-school closures, which is due to report in August.