Belfast Telegraph

School criticises Ruane rejection

by Fiona Rutherford

Braniel Nursery School staff are “devastated” after Education Minister Caitríona Ruane rejected their plea to be allowed to take in only full time pre-school children.

At present, the nursery is being forced to accept part-time classes.

With parents opting for full time places elsewhere, the nursery has had to accept two-year-olds meaning that the older children are missing out on a valuable stepping stone to primary school.

The South Eastern Education and Library Board made the appeal on behalf of the nursery, attached to Braniel Primary School.

The nursery currently provides 78 places through two part-time classes and one full-time class but had asked to be allowed to provide only full-time places for 52 children from the lower Braniel.

Angry principal Diane Dawson said she did not believe the minister had looked at their case properly. “We have 78 places but at least 30 of those are not filled with pre-school children but with children who are just two years 10 months — pre-preschoolers,” she said.

“It means that 22 preschool children are having to leave us at 11.30am every day while the other class are staying till 1.30pm. It isn’t fair on them.

“The children who stay until 1.30pm are getting their lunch and really being prepared for year one at school.”

Explaining the reasons for her decision, Ms Ruane said: “In this case a reduction in the number of places available would have had a significant impact on provision in the Braniel and surrounding area.

“It is my Department’s aim to provide one year’s pre-school education for every child in their pre-school year whose parents wish it.”

Ms Dawson fumed: “Miss Ruane says it’s her department’s aim to provide one year’s preschool education to every child but my preschool children aren’t getting the full year.

“I don’t think the full details pertaining to our specific situation have been looked at. We want to deliver a full curriculum to preschool children. It’s really, really disappointing. We’re devastated.”

She said parents would naturally opt to send their children to other nurseries which could offer their children a full morning or afternoon’s tuition.

“Last year we had one parent who was so upset she took it to her MP because her child was only offered a part time place. It is having a negative impact on us,” she added.

Ms Dawson said she was still waiting to hear whether the SEELB, which put the case to the minister, had recourse to further action or whether the whole process would have to start again.

Castlereagh councillor Michael Copeland said: “I would call upon the minister to re-examine this obviously flawed decision that could only have been arrived at without proper consideration being given to all the relevant information.”

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