Tuesday, 10 December 2013
Posted on April 24, 2012 by stephennicholl This year, as in every other year recently, parents of young children are traumatised by the process of trying to find a nursery place for their child. While extra funding has been made available and a commitment has been made by the Minister that there will be a place for every child the complicated and at times unfair allocation of places across the country means that not everyone is satisfied. Parents who live next door to a nursery can find that due to demand from others who have a higher priority their child is offered options many miles from home. Given that the local primary school may prioritise children from certain nurseries in their allocation process parents are concerned that for their child’s entire time in education local is no longer an option. There is absolutely no guarantee as to the number of children who will be born in a specific area in a specific year. Therefore the rigid adherence to a rigid number of children who can be catered for by a nursery school in a certain year seems naïve. The concept of a flexible system of funding and placement which allows parents to access the services closest to them should not be beyond the capacity of the myriad of advisors in the Department of Education. Such a system would also resolve the issues arising from the priority given to children from socially deprived backgrounds. While initially intended to provide additional support to such children the reality is that since the Minister’s decision to ensure every child has a place in a pre-school setting there is no additional support for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. If we are to close the gaps in educational under achievement, health inequalities or child poverty then we must ensure that additional resources are invested in supporting such children. The question for the Minister therefore is this, having levelled the playing field what do you do now to support children who are disadvantaged over those who are not?