‘There’s no shortage’: John O’Dowd rejects Coalisland nursery school proposals24, June 2012 | By: brendan64 | 1 Comment »
Education Minister John O’Dowd has rejected proposals to create a new nursery school unit in Coalisland – despite claims of a severe shortage of places.
The Sinn Féin MLA turned down plans to establish a new nursery unit at Primate Dixon Primary School to increase enrolment to 52 full-time places.
He said there were “sufficient pre-school places in the area” and that a new unit would “potentially displace” existing nursery provision.
The rejection comes despite claims from Dungannon councillors of a “crisis” surrounding nursery school places in the area.
Proposals to create an additional nursery unit at Primate Dixon were published by the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) on December 15 2011.
Several months later, Dungannon council agreed to call on the Department of Education to provide extra funding and forward planning to provide extra nursery places in the borough.
But Mr O’Dowd has decided to turn down the proposals, more than six months since they were first published.
Explaining his reasons for the decision, Mr O’Dowd said: “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.”
Some local councillors have said parents from Dungannon and Coalisland have contacted them and expressed their disappointment that their child has either not received a nursery place at all, or has been offered one in an area unsuitable to them.
Independent councillor Barry Monteith told the Tyrone Times: “Year after year the Dungannon and Coalisland areas are missing out on adequate nursery provision because of what is basically inaction by the Department of Education.
“Working parents are being discriminated against with the current criteria, and I have had so many people contacting me who have been unable to get their child a place, or else they have been allocated somewhere which is completely inappropriate.
“We need extra places funded now and a review of the whole system of nursery provision, looking specifically at the Dungannon area and planning for the future, instead of just lurching from crisis to crisis.”
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