A number of popular nursery schools in the Derry City Council area are hugely over-subscribed.
One is the Waterside based, Lisnagelvin Nursery School, which had 94 first choice applications for just 26 full-time places.
Others facing similar numbers include The Academy Nursery, which had 55 applications for 26 places, and both the Londonderry Model and Rosemount Primary School had 73 applications for 52 nursery unit places.
However, the numbers, which were obtained by the ‘Journal’ following a Freedom of Information request, also show there are a number of schools which are under-subscribed.
These include the Irish medium nursery unit at Naiscoil Dhoire and the unit at Ashlea Primary School which received just 12 and 14 applications respectively.
There continues to be calls for a nursery unit to be attached to Drumahoe Primary School following the Education Minister’s decision to turn down the proposal in May. Local Councillor for the area Hilary McClintock said, “Drumahoe is the only primary school in the area which does not have nursery school provision attached to it. The community are utterly disappointed at the Education Minister’s decision and as it stands I am also highly critical.”
Almost 300 children were turned down for their first place of nursery provision for the school year starting next month.
In figures obtained by the ‘Journal’ from the Western Education and Library Board, there were 282 children who did not get their first preference choice.
Nursery schools which were very over-subscribed included Lisnagelvin Nursery, which had 94 applications for 26 full-time places, Belmont Nursery, which had 58 applications for 26 full-time places, and The Academy Nursery, which had 55 applications for 26 full-time places.
There are currently 1,482 places available across the Derry City Council area in 31 nursery schools, and in the school year starting in September 2014, there were 1,356 applications submitted for places.
This indicates that there is enough provision in the area however, of these 1,482 places, 156 are part-time, and only 31 parents opted to chose one of these part-time options for their first choice.
Aside from the part-time places, the nursery units which were under-subscribed included Naiscoil Dhoire, which had 12 applications for 26 places and Ashlea, which had 14 applications for 26 places.
The ‘Journal’ also asked how many appeals were lodged. The WELB confirmed that eight parents appealed the decision not to grant their child the first preference place, one of which was upheld, seven of which were dismissed.
The Education Minister John O’Dowd recently refused an application to turn Drumahoe Community Playgroup into a nursery unit at Drumahoe Primary School as he believes there is enough provision locally.
However, the community in Drumahoe feel they have been let down and his decision was highly criticised.
The DUP Councillor for the area, Hilary McClintock said, “Drumahoe is the only primary school in the area which does not have nursery school provision attached to it. This leaves the school at a disadvantage when children are transferring to a primary school and may choose the school where their child has attended nursery.
“The community are utterly disappointed at the Education Minister’s decision and as it stands I am also highly critical.
“I know both the headmaster and Board of Governors at Drumahoe Primary School are looking at ways in which they can proceed in order to make a full-time nursery a possibility.
“The Education Minister said that the opening of a nursery unit in Drumahoe would result in the displacement of children from other provisions but I completely refute that claim, especially as the current 24 playgroup places would only increase to 26 nursery places.
“Additionally, there is no argument that changing the community playgroup into a nursery unit will cost any extra money as the Education Department is already funding places at the playgroup for children who are taking up the equivalent of full-time nursery places.”
Speaking at the time of the decision in June, headmaster of Drumahoe Primary School, Terry McMaster, said, ““We are bitterly, bitterly disappointed. Over the past twenty and more years, they’ve built it up on the understanding that it would eventually become a nursery. I’m just gutted for the village because people have been very patient.
“There’s a lot of anger that the young people of the area aren’t being treated the same as in other parts of the city, “ he added.
In the Department of Education document outlining the reasoning behind the ‘non-approval’ decision the Education and Training Inspectorate argued that “the proposal could have an “adverse impact on the existing DE funded provision in the area.”
It continues, “There remains an urgent need for the WELB to take strategic decisions that take account of both the pre-school and primary provision in the area to remove the uncertainty which exists and which is unhelpful for schools planning to meet the needs of the children in the near future in relation to Ashlea Primary and Nursery Unit and Drumahoe Primary.”