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916 children miss out on nursery place in Northern Ireland

By Rebecca Black

Published 19/04/2016

Almost 1,000 children have missed out on nursery school places following the first round of offers
Almost 1,000 children have missed out on nursery school places following the first round of offers

Almost 1,000 children have missed out on nursery school places following the first round of offers.

Parents were informed on Saturday whether their child had been successful.

Some 96% (22,000) of children whose parents applied for a pre-school place were offered a place in one of their preferred settings.

However, an estimated 916 children are still without a pre-school place out of the 23,000 who applied.

They still have an opportunity to get a place in the second round of offers which will be made in June, but some parents have expressed concern that their child will end up at a nursery far away from their home.

Each pre-school may use a different admissions criteria which can include whether the child has an older sibling in attendance or how close they live to the pre-school, however all give preference to children whose parents are in receipt of benefits as part of the statutory criteria require providers to give preference to children from socially disadvantaged circumstances.

PUP councillor Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston said she has been contacted by a number of parents in the ward she represents in north Belfast voicing concerns about their child not having secured a place.

She claims that four pre-schools in the area are filled to capacity, leaving local parents concerned that even if their child is offered a place at another facility, it could be some distance away.

Ms Corr-Johnston said the current system is unfair on working parents who earn minimum wage and cannot afford to transport their child to a nursery further away from their home.

Some parents from outside Belfast were also left disappointed.

Mum Deborah McAleese from Hillsborough has been left concerned after her son James did not secure a place at a pre-school despite living close to it.

"My preferred pre-school for my son James is 1.5 miles from our front door. It is a place he is familiar with and where many of his little friends from crèche will be going," she said.

"But because I am not in receipt of benefits and James, as an only child, has no siblings at the school, he has not been offered a place.

"James is a very sensitive child and can find new experiences incredibly daunting so I am reluctant to send him to any of the unfamiliar pre-schools, between seven and 15 miles away, that the Education Authority advised me still have funded places available.

"I think it is unfair that my son has missed out on a pre-school place at his local school because he is an only child with working parents."

Letters on the second stage of the application process will be issued to parents on Friday, June 3.

Belfast Telegraph

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