Toddling towards a U-turn?

June 13, 2003

After six months of honing their higher education policy, Charles Clarke and Margaret Hodge are agreed: the money going into universities would be better spent on nurseries. Ms Hodge was first with the new line. At a Downing Street seminar on access to higher education, she told a surprised audience that she would have more impact on the life chances of the poor if, rather than "fiddling around" with grants and tuition fees, she could switch "zillions" into educating the under-fives.

Far from reining her in, the boss confirmed last week in a speech to the Pre-School Learning Alliance that, in an ideal world, spending on universities would be cut right back and the savings invested in the early years.

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