Belfast Telegraph

Warning on education cash shortfall

Education provision for young children faces serious funding shortages, campaigners in Northern Ireland claim.

Expenditure on young people in early years was less than a third of that in Great Britain and the inequality is not being challenged, the Children in Northern Ireland (CiNI) lobby group claimed.

Members are to attend a discussion at Stormont to discuss the Department of Education`s draft Early Years Strategy. It covers those aged up to six.

The department insists it is investing heavily in early years.

CiNI director Pauline Leeson said: "It is crucial that action is taken to eliminate pre-school sectoral inequalities.

"However, the draft Early Years strategy makes no substantive commitment to make changes to funding mechanisms in the near future. Instead, the strategy alludes to resource constraints.

"The department may believe this is a valid get-out mechanism but ultimately such a mindset serves only to propagate the inequality."

The draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy document aims to link a range of early years' services for children (0-4) for education and health with the first years of primary school.

In 2010/11 the department is investing about £80 million in early years provision, including funded pre-school provision in both the statutory and voluntary settings and support for intermediary bodies working in the early years sector.

Ms Leeson said the draft strategy also failed to acknowledge child poverty and the extent to which it can undermine opportunities for development.

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