Pre-school plans get a thumbs up...

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WHILE the news that the criteria for admitting children to pre-school has changed has been widely welcomed, a local parent has expressed disappointment after the Education Minister’s announcement.

John O’Dowd’s statement revealed an end to the preference given to children born in July and August, as well as extending the “social disadvantage” criteria to include low income families as well as those on benefits.

But the father-of-one, who did not wish to be named, said he felt the move was “for show” and would not really solve the problems which caused many children to miss out on pre-school places in previous years.

Last year many parents relayed their plights to the Leader - from being offered places miles from their first preference schools, to being told there was no place for their child at all.

The local father said, “I feel that they are doing something to be seen to be doing something following the whole outcry last year.

“But I don’t believe that it’s really going to make a huge difference, particularly in the extension of the social disadvantage criteria. That criteria still isn’t tailored to indivual circumstances.

“Just by taking in families on low incomes they will still disadvantage other people whose personal circumstances aren’t taken into account. What does low income really mean?”

Speaking last week the Education Minister he had made some changes after a review into the admissions process. As well as this extra funding of £1.25 million was allocated to private and voluntary pre-school providers - allowing an extra £150 per place.

Upper Bann MLA Jo-Anne Dobson said all children should received a funded place at nursery school.

“It is important that we work towards fairness to ensure that all our children have an equal opportunity to avail of pre-school education. Until we reach this point, we will unfortunately continue to hear of pupils who have been turned down for a place.

“The best way for our children to start off their educational experience is for all children to have a funded place at nursery school.”