Parliament is expected next week to vote on the expansion of free and compulsory pre-primary education to include children aged four years old and above.

The planned vote comes after Education Minister Athena Michaelidou sent a letter to the House Education committee with instructions to move the matter forward, with the committee meeting on Wednesday.

At the meeting, committee chairman and Diko MP Pavlos Mylonas read the letter, which says the relevant ministries and deputy ministries will “work together to effectively deal with” issues faced by the education sector to implement the policy.

Diko MP Chrysanthos Savvides expressed his support of the bill, saying “thousands of families on low incomes will be able to choose the school their children will attend.”

Disy MP Giorgos Karoullas described the reform as “absolutely necessary”, but said he expects reassurances from the ministry to “make sure nursery schools don’t close.”

He described some of the solutions to problems offered in the letter as “general and vague” and said, “parliament cannot vote under the pressure of documents and be called upon to cover for the Education ministry’s failure to carry out a proper consultation.”

He added that he would await the results of a planned meeting on Wednesday between the Education ministry, the Social welfare deputy ministry, and the private preschools association (Sipek) before proceeding with the passage of the bill.

Akel MP Christos Christofides was more positive about the bill, saying that possible problems can be ironed out during a transitional period.

There is a formula which can satisfy the whole of Cypriot society,” he said.

The government’s current plan is for the age of acceptance into nursery schools to gradually decrease over time, with children aged four years and six months old to be accepted into nursery schools in the coming academic year.

The minimum age will then be gradually lowered over the course of the next few years down to four years old, allowing nursery schools time to expand accordingly.