Letter: How to fund private nurseries

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Sir: Fran Abrams' article "Even a child could do better" (19 June) is one of the first and so far the best on the problem faced by this country in meeting its commitment to good-quality nursery education for all four- year-olds. Ms Abrams identifies the only practical solution: to include the private nursery sector in a partnership of provision.

Every politician from every party pays lip service to the private sector. However, until the advent of nursery vouchers, not one politician has advocated a true partnership with the private sector.

All my immediate colleagues who own, manage and run private, pre-school provision have personally underwritten every penny of the money needed to establish each new facility.

We don't fit the grant/lending criteria because we are a service industry, or are we an education establishment? My local DTI office isn't sure. But one thing they are crystal clear about - whichever we are - we're on our own.

Equally, high-street banks are very reticent in their dealings with private nursery provision. The lending criteria universally applied to small businesses are equally applied to us. Unfortunately, many small nursery businesses cannot meet those criteria effectively. How many education and public- sector nurseries could survive if the same "business" criteria were applied to their nursery management and control?

I am not asking for full state funding for the private sector. I am demanding, for my parents and children, and every four-year-old who won't get a nursery place, that public investment criteria be urgently revised to include us, and that the private nursery sector is able to access capital investment.

HEATHER DAKIN

Greenfields Day Nurseries

Wigan, Greater Manchester

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