Advice for local parents on pre-school applications

Tracey Cassells Principal of Barbour Nursery School. US4711-117AO
Tracey Cassells Principal of Barbour Nursery School. US4711-117AO

PARENTS now have some big decisions to make on their children’s pre-school education, a local nursery school principal has said.

Tracey Cassells, National Association of Head Teachers (Nursery Education) committee member & Principal of Barbour Nursery School in Lisburn said:

“We have been taking a lot of early enquiries 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”.

Statistics show once again that almost two thirds of pre-school children are receiving their funded pre-school education in the statutory sector in either Nursery Schools or Nursery Classes attached to Primary schools. Both are fully funded by the Department of Education, so there is no daily charge for children who attend, and most offer a variety of either full-time or part-time places.

Tracey said: “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 consistent messages coming from Government research is that there are significant differences between pre-school settings; with Nursery Schools & Nursery classes evidenced as having the best overall pattern of results, and that these lasting effects are still evident at the age of 21.”

She pointed out the recently released Chief Inspectors 2012 Report, highlights once again that in 88% of nursery schools “achievements and standards were evaluated as good or better; with over one-half of the provision judged by Inspectors to be outstanding”.

Each statutory Nursery class in a Primary or Nursery School is staffed with a qualified teacher with a teaching degree or post-graduate teaching qualification or higher, supported by at least one qualified nursery assistant.

Together they are a team who are not only trained in knowing how children develop, but also in how to support each individual child to make progress, alongside developing positive attitudes to learning and working with parents.

They are also experienced in identifying and teaching children with special educational needs.

Research is consistently showing that it is the qualified teacher that enables Nursery Schools and Nursery units to provide the highest quality learning opportunities, and also the highest quality of support to children who may have additional learning needs.

Tracey added: “I am concerned that some parents feel under pressure that their children should be learning to read and write at three years of age and see Nursery education simply as preparation for primary school. Nursery education actually provides what children of 3&4 need – high quality play-based learning experiences that encourage young children to talk to each other, to organise their play, to share, to make decisions, to problem solve and very importantly to have fun while learning!

“These are the real building blocks for all later education and research proves that high quality Nursery education is crucial for future successful outcomes.”

Parents of children born between 2 July, 2009, and 1 July, 2010, who are interested in applying for a place at their local Nursery School or Nursery unit should collect an application form from the school during December, or contact their local Education & Library Board to find out where their nearest nursery class provision is.

Booklets are also now available from schools detailing all the providers within the city.

Tracey concluded: “School principals are happy to talk parents through the application process and assist them in making their important choice.”

Parents are also advised to take the opportunity to visit their local schools during forthcoming Open Evenings.The closing date for applications for September 2013, is Friday 11th January.