Letter: Real value of nursery vouchers

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The Independent Online
Sir: You report ("New ministers keep their promises", 7 May) that David Blunkett is to set about abolishing the nursery voucher scheme and to return the funding to schools directly. Those of us who have been forced to implement Tory cuts to schools' budgets over recent years will be watching very closely to see exactly what this means.

It is important to understand that the nursery voucher scheme was, in fact, a cut in school funding. Before the scheme was introduced, each "rising five" child who came to a primary school's reception class or nursery unit brought with him or her a certain amount of funding from the local education authority. In Devon, that amount was around pounds 1,500. When the voucher scheme was introduced this sum was clawed back from the school's budget and replaced by the pounds 1,100 represented by the voucher: a de facto cut of pounds 400 per child. The figures vary around the country, but in every case the net result was a cut in school budgets.

If Mr Blunkett returns only the value of the voucher to our schools, he will be endorsing a Tory education cut, and this will be an act of betrayal to all of us who, in a spirit of guarded optimism, voted for his party and hoped for a level of school funding that was at least operable. What we expect from him, at the very least, is a return to the level of funding per child that existed before the introduction of vouchers.

Beyond that, we expect him to reduce the size of all primary school classes, not just those of five- to seven-year-olds. It may be that this would mean breaking the Labour promises of low taxation; for that, we might well be prepared to forgive him.

MAL PEET

Vice-Chairman of Governors

Exeter Road Primary School

Exmouth, Devon

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