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O’Dowd cautions Assembly on implication of Early Years Motion

7 June, 2011 - by John O'Dowd

The voluntary sector plays an important role in the provision of pre-school education locally and should be maintained the Education Minister has insisted.

John O’Dowd was speaking after an Assembly debate on nursery school provision. He warned that today’s motion implied an end to pre-school education provided by the voluntary and private sectors.

Education Minister John O’Dowd said: “The voluntary sector plays a valuable and important role in the provision of a high-quality education for pre-school children.

“Around 8,000 children each year benefit from a year’s pre-school education in a voluntary or private setting. Each of these providers is rigorously inspected by the Education and Training Inspectorate, in the same way nursery schools are overseen, to ensure the highest quality of education for young children.

“Today’s motion proposed the ending of funding for all these settings – currently 380 across the north. This would potentially lead to as many as 1,100 job losses across the early years’ workforce.

“Providing sufficient additional statutory nursery places to fill that gap would cost an estimated £40million in upfront capital costs and an ongoing £30million per year to fund the nursery schools. Given the current pressures facing the education budget, I would have to take this money from elsewhere in the system.”

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