THE principal of Dromore Nursery School is this week offering advice to confused parents facing decisions about their child’s pre-school education for September next year.
Mrs. Sharon Beattie moved to provide what answers she could after hearing from many parents daunted by the range of available provision and recent changes to the law.
“I have been taking a lot of early enquiries,” she said, “from parents who simply want to make the best choice for their child’s pre-school year and are confused about the range of pre-school providers available and the recent changes in legislation effecting pre-school provision.
“The best advice that I can give to any parent is to make an informed choice for their child’s crucial pre-school education. The recently released Chief Inspectors 2012 Report highlights once again in 88% of nursery schools that ‘achievements and standards were evaluated as good or better; with over one-half of the provision judged by Inspectors to be outstanding’.
“To read this article in full or the section on pre-school education you can access the document on the Education and Training Inspectorate website at www.etini.gov.uk. At this same site you can access any individual setting’s most recent inspection report.”
Mrs. Beattie took the opportunity to “strongly disagree” with a perception among some parents that their children should be learning to read and write at age three and that nursery education was simply preparation for primary school.
“Nursery Education,” she said, “actually provides what children of three and four years of age need developmentally - high quality, play-based learning experiences that encourage young children to talk to each other, to organise their play, to share, to talk together, to make decisions, to problem solve and, very importantly, to have fun while learning.”
Of her own school she said children would be learning in a Nursery class staffed with a qualified teacher who had chosen to specialise in Nursery Education and also a qualified nursery assistant.
Mrs. Beattie went on to note that in July this year the Pre-School Education in Schools (Admission Criteria) (Amendment) Regulation (Northern Ireland) 2012 effectively stated ‘…pre-school settings are no longer required to give priority in their admissions criteria to children born in July and August’.
“In addition to this change,” she said, “admissions criteria for children in their final pre-school year are not recommended to differentiate by age. (Relevant Department of Education and Southern Education and Library Board advice is available at www.deni.gov.uk/circular2012.13-open-enrolment and www.selb.org/schooldocuments/circular 2012/115).
“Effectively this has removed the admission to pre-school provision for children in their immediate pre-school year by means of chronological age. Therefore, a child born in July and August no longer gets a higher preference for entry to a particular setting or class within a setting. “
She added, “Once again it is essential that parents stay informed by collecting this information early to allow them to work through the criteria and seek advice from individual providers. Help and advice is also available from the Education and Library Boards (Southern Education and Library Board Parent and Pupil Unit 028 37 512520). Parents of children born between 2 July 2009 and 1 July 2010, who are interested in applying for a place at Dromore Nursery School or any other pre-school provider in the Dromore area, should contact or collect an application form during December, from the school or contact their local Education and Library Board to find out where their nearest pre-school provision is.
“Application opens 10 December 2012 and closes 11 January 2013 at 12noon.”