Shephard rejects nursery voucher scheme

Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education, reopens the row in the Government over the funding of nursery education in an interview published today.

She appears to dismiss the idea of a voucher scheme endorsed by Jonathan Aitken, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who is responsible for public spending.

In today's Times Educational Supplement, she says vouchers "are not the favoured option" to deliver the Prime Minister's promise of nursery education for all four-year-olds whose parents want it. She says: "Legislation may not be necessary for our nursery proposals. A full-blown voucher scheme would require legislation."

Vouchers, long advocated by the free-market right, would give parents cash amounts which could only be spent on approved pre-school education - but which could be spent in the private sector. Such a system "has powerful attractions, principally because it puts choice directly in the hands of parents", Mr Aitken said at a Conservative think-tank seminar on 15 March.

But Mrs Shephard, already furious about the "tight" spending limits agreed for education this year, was notably unenthusiastic, reflecting a long- growing Cabinet split. Her opposition to a voucher scheme is now becoming clearer in public. Backing a voucher scheme would run counter to her political strategy of calming troubled ideological waters after years of upheaval in education.

Education policy is the focus of a fierce ideological struggle in the Conservative Party in the run-up to the next general election. It is understood that Mrs Shephard has succeeded in keeping right-wingers off her group discussing proposals for the manifesto.

But Mr Major is believed to be keen on vouchers and some observers say that Mrs Shephard is only fighting a rearguard action.

David Blunkett, Labour's education spokesman, tried to exploit Cabinet divisions, saying last night: "Gillian Shephard has clearly rejected a key part of the John Major's supposed fightback."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower