Education Minister ‘committed’ to ensuring every child has a pre-school place

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FIGURES revealed this week have shown that there are hundreds of children across Northern Ireland who have yet to find a pre-school place. However, the Department of Education have said they are committed to ensuring every child has a place.

Figures show that in the South Eastern Education and Library Board area there are still 354 children left unplaced. The statistics are similar for other Board areas, with almost 1,500 children across Northern Ireland still without a pre-school place for September.

A spokesperson for the Department said: “Many parents and guardians will be pleased to receive confirmation that their child has gained a place in one of the pre-school settings selected on their application.

“Others will be advised by their local Education and Library Board that, unfortunately, they have not been allocated a place in any of the settings they chose. The Department would like to reassure these parents that the admissions process is not yet complete and would strongly encourage parents to apply again for remaining places in the second stage of the process.

“The letter from the Board includes a list of pre-school settings with vacancies and an application form on which parents should indicate further preferences. Letters advising of the outcome of this second stage of the application process will be issued to parents on June 1.”

The spokesperson added: “The Department is committed to ensuring that a pre-school place, in a voluntary, private or statutory setting, is available for all children whose parents wish to avail of it. To this end, significant additional financial support has been allocated to Education and Library Boards in the last 12 months to help cater for demand.”

Lagan Valley Assembly Member Paul Givan has said more needs to be done to increase the provision of nursery places in Lisburn.

“Some nursery schools are heavily oversubscribed and in these areas the capacity to accommodate the growing populations is not being met, resulting in parents having to send their children to alternative providers, often much further away from home,” said Mr Givan.

“In a meeting with the Education Minister at Stormont I raised this issue and am pleased that additional provision is being made in areas of high demand with two new voluntary providers being established but a more fundamental assessment is needed that will provide the nursery places much closer to where people live as the current system is denying parental choice,” he added,