THE Governors of Iveagh Primary School will meet to discuss their next move after their proposal for a nursery unit was turned down.
Education Minister, John O’Dowd, refused to approve the application which would have established 26 full-time nursery places at the school in Rathfriland.
But there was good news at Bronte Primary School with the news that 26 part-time places have been approved by the Minister.
Explaining the reasons for his decision to turn down the Iveagh application, Mr O’Dowd commented: “My views on the value of pre-school provision for young children are well known. However, each development proposal for the establishment of new provision must be carefully considered on the basis of all the information pertinent to the individual case.
“The challenge I face is not simply to create more pre-school places, rather to ensure pre-school provision reflects the need for provision in local areas.
“In this instance there are already sufficient pre-school places in the area and if approved the new unit would potentially displace existing good quality pre-school provision. On that basis I could not endorse this proposal.”
Philip Vance, the principal of the school, was contacted for comment but said that he would not be in a position to do so until after the Board of Governors had met.
Commenting on the decision to approve the unit at Bronte PS Mr O’Dowd added, “The establishment of this new facility will be a welcome announcement to the area and will provide nursery provision to children who would otherwise travel outside their immediate locality to access a pre-school place.
“It is common knowledge that my Department faces significant financial pressures, particularly on its front line schools’ budget. It is therefore important that we maximise the impact of available pre-school resources and avoid unnecessary over-provision or duplication. On this occasion there was a clear gap in provision and a need to create more pre-school places for the benefit of the children in this rural community.
“My Department is committed to providing a place for each child in their immediate pre-school year. Research has shown that there is no discernable benefit to children of a longer daily pre-school session, therefore in this instance I have modified the proposal and given approval for the establishment of a 26 place part-time unit.”
Bronte principal, Mrs Elizabeth Davidson, said that she was delighted with the news.
“It all happened very quickly,” she said. “The idea was first proposed in February and then the consultation followed.
“We hope to have everything in place for September 2013, but until then it will be all hands to the pump as there is plenty to organise such as accomodation and teachers.
“Whether we get an extension to our current building will be at the discretion of the SELB. We have a modern building here which opened 12 years ago, as well as an extension which was built in 2007.”
Mrs Davidson added that she appreciated the support of local people who had taken part in the consultation and written to the local papers regarding the issue.