This study is concerned with the geographical distribution of the provision of nursery education in England and Wales from 1981 to 1994. It examines the extent to which the provision of nursery education is related to the need for the service. Davies's (1968) concept of territorial justice implies a positive correlation between need and provision. This interpretation of territorial justice is well established in the academic literature on the distribution of public services. Boyne and Powell (1991) have questioned whether a positive correlation between need and provision is always required for territorial justice. The key issue, it has been argued, is the requirement to consider the dimensions of need and service provision. This study assesses the validity of Boyne and Powell's (1991) analysis and builds substantially on its foundation A new set of criteria for the assessment of territorial justice is developed. These are presented as the alternative to the Davies (1968) criterion of territorial justice. Territorial justice is more appropriately concerned with 'equal provision for relevant dimensions of need'. The criteria for the evaluation of territorial justice developed in this study are applied to nursery education. The correlations provide a mixture of evidence of territorial justice and injustice in the quantity of service provision, together with territorial injustice in the quality of service. The Davies (1968) criterion of territorial justice would have indicated greater territorial justice in the provision of nursery education than that found using the new criteria. This study contributes at two levels to previous literature on territorial justice: a new method is used to assess territorial justice and new evidence on territorial justice within nursery education provision in England and Wales is presented. Further studies using the criteria developed in this study are required in other areas of public policy.
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