Statements 21

Sammy Calls For Increased Nursery Provision In Larne

Sammy has called upon the Department of Education to increase the number of funded nursery places available in Larne. For the third year in a row I have had a large number of parents contact me complaining that they cannot find a nursery place for their children in any of the providers in Larne. They have been told that there are places in Ballymena and further afield which of course for those working in the town or Belfast are not feasible options.
It is amazing that with census figures, enrolment statistics and early choices registered by parents, that the Department of Education has not planned for the increase in the number of children born and coming to nursery age in the area. Many of the providers are at capacity but there needs to be an urgent review of providers who can take additional children and additional funded places allocated to them.
The policy on allocation of nursery places put in place when Martin McGuinness was education minister also needs to be changed. Currently preference is given to children of those parents who are not working whilst working parents find that their offspring are bottom of the list. This perverse policy creates problems for many parents who are often on low wages, have no transport of their own and are offered nursery places in providers who are too far away for them to take their children to while getting to work on time. Some are forced to choose between work or getting their children to nursery.
When the policy was introduced over 17 years ago I challenged it as the Chairman of the Education Committee in the Assembly but successive Sinn Fein Ministers have failed to change it. It is an issue which the Assembly when restored must address because it is unfair and economically damaging.
The current shortage of nursery places vital to the educational development of children also puts into some perspective the insane demand of Sinn Fein for an all singing all dancing multimillion pound Irish Language act as a necessary condition for setting up the Assembly again. It is something which as a party we will not concede because we believe that the first priority on spending ought to be giving children a sound footing for their future education not indulging Sinn Fein’s provocative wish list.   


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