DETAILED figures have emerged which reveal the battle for nursery places for children in Derry.
The majority of nursery schools and playgroups in the city received more applications than they have places for the 2013/14 academic year.
It once highlights the demand for nursery places amid ongoing concerns about the process used to allocate the places.
The pre-school scheme offers a free place to every child in the year before they go to primary school.
Children whose parents are receive social security benefits are given first preference in relation to the allocation of nursery places.
This has led to claims that the current system discriminates against working parents.
Parents are asked to indicate their preferred choice of nursery/playgroup on their application form.
Following assessment of their application, if a place is not available at their first preference they are offered a place at their second preference choice if there are places available at that nursery/place.
This system of preference allocation continues until the child is offered a place.
However, many parents have also complained that the current system means their child could be placed at a nursery school located quite a distance from their home.
The issue of nursery/playgroup places in Derry has been raised at the Stormont Assembly by Foyle SDLP Assemblyman Pat Ramsey.
He asked the Minister of Education to outline the number of applications for childcare places made in the Foyle constituency in the last twelve months, broken down by provider; and the number of applications refused due to lack of spaces.
In response, the Education Minister John O’Dowd released statistics for the amount of places available at each local nursery and the number of first preference applications they received.
Mr O’Dowd said admission to pre-school was preference based and parents are encouraged to list a number of preferences as it is not always possible to accommodate everyone’s first choice.
“At the end of the 2013/14 admissions process, 99.9% of all children whose parents engaged fully with the process were placed with over 85% placed in their first preference setting.
“All children in the Foyle constituency, whose parents engaged fully with the process, were placed.
“The Pre-School Education Advisory Group in the Western Education and Library Board will continue to ensure that sufficient provision is available in the area to meet demand.”
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