War of words over claims children being treated as ‘second-class citizens’
A WAR of words has broken out among local politicians over the provision of pre-school education in the Dungannon area.
Independent Republican Councillor Barry Montieth has accused the Northern Ireland Assembly 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.
There is currently a shortage of nursery provision in the local district, as services struggle to cope with the increasing numbers.
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.
However, Sinn Féin MLA Francie Molloy accused Councillor Barry Monteith of misrepresenting the facts over the provision of pre-school education in the Dungannon area.
Mr Molloy said: “The Minister John O’Dowd recently made a number of very positive announcements regarding pre-school education provision which were warmly welcomed by many educationalists, families and public representatives. This included the biggest investment ever in pre school education.
“The Minister outlined how he intends to make the pre-school criteria fairer and more equitable while also confirming significant additional funding for the sector.
“Unfortunately Councillor Monteith has instead chose to misrepresent the facts by sensationalising the claim that children in Dungannon are being treated as second class.
“I have done a lot of lobbying with the Minister John O’Dowd and as a result increased the extra places that were offered in Dungannon. I will continue to engage with the Principal and others in the new term to keep this situation under review. “However, the Minister has made it quite clear in the Programme for Government that pre-school provision will be made available to every child whose family wish to avail of it; this includes the increase expected over the next few years in the Dungannon area.”
Mr Molloy concluded: “That’s how things have changed where we are able to shape and influence and actually make decisions and the vast majority of stakeholders have welcomed the Minister commitment to pre school education.”
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Weather for Dungannon
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 4 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North west