DUNGANNON Council has agreed to call on the Department of Education (DENI) to provide extra funding and forward planning in a bid to tackle what has been described as the “crisis” surrounding nursery school places in the area.
Local Independent Councillor, Barry Monteith, says he has been contacted by several parents from the Dungannon and Coalisland areas who have expressed their disappointment that their child has either not received a place at all or has been offered one in an area unsuitable to them.
Cllr Monteith tabled a proposal on the issue at the monthly meeting of the council in Dungannon, calling on them to set up an urgent meeting with both the Department and the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) to discuss the crisis in Dungannon and Coalisland.
The council was also asked to write to the Education Minister, John O’Dowd, to seek funding for extra places in the areas, and to commit itself to meet with both organisations and plan for future years.
Speaking to the Tyrone Times about the proposal, which was passed, Cllr Monteith said: “It is not hard to know how many young people will be looking for nursery provision in the years to come, whether that is through studying population figures and planning ahead through that.
“Year after year the Dungannon and Coalisland areas are missing out on adequate nursery provision because of what is basically inaction by the Department of Education.
“Working parents are being discriminated against with the current criteria, and I have had so many people contacting me who have been unable to get their child a place, or else they have been allocated somewhere which is completely inappropriate.
“This situation is a whole mess and it needs sorted out now. It is ten or twelve years since this issue was allegedly supposed to be reviewed, but that hasn’t happened.
“The people making these decisions are sitting in their ivory towers and ordinary, hard working people are suffering. Promises have been made by various Education Ministers at various times about having nursery provision for all, but the reality is that is not the case in Dungannon and Coalisland. We need extra places funded now and a review of the whole system of nursery provision, looking specifically at the Dungannon area and planning for the future, instead of just lurching from crisis to crisis.”