Time really does fly, this post was originally written when Sarah was starting nursery in 2017 and now we need it for Niamh going to Primary one, dont forget that in Northern Ireland the process starts on Tuesay 7th January 2020.https://www.eani.org.uk/parents/admissions/important-dates-for-your-diary
I guess I`ve been kinda busy, adjusting to part time working, completing my CIPD and coping with two growing little ladies everyday. And it was Sarah who is due to start nursery next year who has prompted me to write this post. I wasn`t aware and am still quite amazed at what I discovered last week when I started going to visit nurseries for the first time. I knew every nursery had its own criteria and that they may look at things such as siblings at the school, distance from the school and some even have a alphabetical criteria which adds a random element to the process. In 2019 thsi however changed to a randomised computer pattern of choosing alphabetical surnames which seems fairer.
I knew about this so it didn`t surprise me but what did shock me was that our local government at Stormont have put in place since 1998 legislation that children who are from a socially disadvantaged background gain preference before the school`s own crietria kicks in. By socially disadvantged I mean the parents have to be in reciept of income support or job seekers allowance. What does this mean for me? Well, because I work, it means we have less chance of getting a full time nursery place at a nursery close to home and will most likely have to get a part time place (made up to full time at our own expense!!!) somewhere not close to home. God knows the school run can be challenging enough An ode to the school run.. My poetic ramblings.
The rationale is found within this article Day nurseries article ref discrimination A spokesman for the Department of Education said: “Research has shown that children from socially disadvantaged circumstances tend to experience more difficulty at school than other children, so legislation requires that they are given priority in the pre-school admissions process as part of wider efforts to tackle educational underachievement.”
Now the explanation above is both simplistic and harsh to the many children from socially disadvataged backgrounds who don`t need additional support and also neglects those children from backgrounds that aren`t socially disadvantaged but maybe need additional help. This system is a disgrace and how it complies with equality legislation in NI I will never know! It is interesting however that many of the articles online around this issue have commentary from the smaller parties in NI which would indicate that this requirement is too important to the big two parties in keeping their electorate happy.
I have no issue with someone getting help when they genuinely need it, who knows what the future holds for any of us but I do take umbridge at being discriminated against by a system too inadequate to effectively find a solution which benefits all children, regardless of social advantage or disadvantage,remembering the children are only 3 or 4. Lets look at an example of a working parent on minimum wage. They may be earning slightly more than soemone who is socially disadvantaged but could actually end up “earning” less after they pay for additional nursery hours or travel to and from nursery. I know this is a basic example which doesn`t take into account the individual circumstances of each person.
And maybe this is what we need in place, a system which looks at all of the factors regrading nursery allocation and indeed education for each indivdual family to ensure that thse who need the help get it and thse who don`t understand why they are not getting it. It is simply not good enough to throw a blanket over the issue, its discrimination and it stinks! Does this happen anywhere else in the world, Ireland or the UK?