Soaring Dungannon birth-rate sparks pre-school crisis
THE NORTHERN Ireland Assembly has been accused of ignoring warnings of Dungannon’s baby boom after latest figures revealed that an extra 200 pupils will need pre-school places by 2015.
So far in 2012, just as in the last four years, the Dungannon district has topped the North’s birth-rate league tables.
Dungannon’s birth-rate has accelerated since last year, as it has done every year since the start of the economic downturn in 2007.
In 2007, there were 15.7 births per 1,000 population, rising in the first quarter of 2012 to 17.5 births, a jump of almost 12 percent.
The surging birth rate means that approximately an extra 200 pupils will need pre-school school places in the Dungannon area by 2015.
However, there is currently a shortage of nursery provision in the local district, as services struggle to cope with the increasing numbers.
Independent Republican Councillor Barry Monteith has urged the authorities to take immediate action to tackle what he termed an “urgent crisis” in pre-school provision.
“The frustrating thing for Dungannon people is that we know there is need for more pre-school provision in the town and there are current providers who can and will fill the gap but the Department of Education will not put the funding in place”, he said.
“This year saw Dungannon faced with the biggest shortfall in pre-school provision in the area covered by the SELB. These children’s parents had all expressed a desire for their children to attend nursery school within the maintained education sector.
“The Department of Education ignored their requests. The only conclusion is that these children are being discriminated against. These new figures for incoming years show that this crisis will continue unless this blatant discrimination is addressed.
“I have raised this issue before as every year the department creates a mess on this issue. This year the problems arose again in Dungannon and Coalisland. At previous Council meetings I proposed that the Council express dismay at this scandalous situation to the Department of Education and the Minister responsible. This was agreed. Over the last number of years we have heard constantly that parental choice is paramount when it comes to education. Here we have a situation where this is being ignored.”
“This blatant disregard for these children must be challenged and met head on. The people and children of Dungannon Town will not be treated as second-class citizens by anyone. We, in Dungannon, are entitled to adequate pre-school provision which meets the needs of local families. The fight for equality and civil rights from the powers that be at Stormont continues for the people of Dungannon.”
In the first three months of 2012, there were 252 babies born to mothers from the Dungannon District.
The next highest birth-rate in Northern Ireland was Banbridge with a rate of 16.8 babies per population.
The government figures also show that across Northern Ireland, Craigavon’s Maternity Unit has experienced the sharpest increase in the number of deliveries with a 33% rise since 2004.
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Weather for Dungannon
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 10 C
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