‘Tears’ as child fails to get a place in nearby nursery

A “FRUSTRATED and angry” Castlederg parent has called for a change in admission rules after his child was turned down for a place in their local nursery – despite the family living just around the corner from the school building.
Norman Boggs, who lives on Lurganbuoy Road, wants to see proximity become a statutory requirement after his daughter Pippa failed to get a place in the Nursery Unit at Edwards Primary School next September.
Currently, the two statutory criteria relating to admissions for nursery places relate to the child’s age and whether or not they come from “socially disadvantaged circumstances”.
Mr Boggs, whose family has a connection with Edwards PS going back several generations, said he couldn’t understand how somebody “living on the doorstep of the school” couldn’t get into the nursery.
Adding to his frustrations, the family had paid for their child to go to the Kidz Play playgroup based at Edwards for five days a week, without then securing a place in the nursery unit.
As a former pupil of Edwards PS, he is also upset that his own attendance at the school was not given more weight in the admissions process.
Although he has received assurances that his daughter would get a P1 place at the school the following year, Mr Boggs admitted that the whole situation has left him feeling confused and angry.
“We’ve shed tears over it,” he said.
In his fight to get a place for his child at the local nursery, Mr Boggs said he had received cross-party backing from local elected representatives including MLAs Tom Buchanan and Maolíosa McHugh, and Cara Hunter, deputy mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council.
Mr Boggs is currently appealing the decision. In the meantime, his daughter has been offered a place at a nursery in Killen, several miles away.
Explaining why the child had been turned down for admission, Edwards PS principal, Libby Robinson, said it had been a “high birth rate” year in Castlederg and there had been more than 40 applications for an initial 26 places at the nursery.
Ms Robinson said she then applied to the Department of Education to get a temporary variation, allowing her to add an additional four places.
She added that a maximum of 30 places was all that the floorspace at the nursery unit allowed.
While acknowledging the frustration felt by Mr Boggs, she said that all the places at the nursery unit had been filled before the sub-criteria relating to having a parent who 
attended the school came into consideration.
Stressing that providing a nursery education wasn’t compulsory, the principal said that proximity to the school came into play in P1.

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