Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has approved the establishment of a twenty-six place part-time nursery unit at Orchard County Primary School, Portadown.
The Minister had initially turned down a
proposal to establish the new unit. Explaining the reasons for his
revised decision, he said: “The
original analysis of the development proposal suggested that the
existing provision in the area was sufficient as it was above the
Department’s target level and, if approved, the additional places
offered at Orchard County would therefore have had the potential to displace good quality pre-school provision already in existence.
“My officials have, however, reviewed the
information originally presented to me in relation to the development
proposal and have regrettably discovered an error in the statistical
data used to calculate the existing level of provision in the area.
“I would like to take this opportunity to
apologise on behalf of my Department to the Principal and staff of
Orchard County for any distress which may have been caused as a result
of my original decision which was based on incorrect data.”
The Minister continued:
“Normally my decision concludes the development proposal process,
however, it is incumbent on me to reconsider the proposal based on the
correct information and the amended calculation presents a much lower
level of provision for the area, and therefore significantly impacts on
the proposal. Having considered this and taken legal advice on the
process, along with all of the other pertinent facts, I have now
approved the establishment of a new part-time nursery unit at Orchard
County Primary School.
“Every time that I approve a development
proposal for a statutory nursery school, it creates extra pressure on
the front line schools’ budget programme. However, I am legally bound
to make a decision on any development proposal presented to my
Department and in doing so I consider each proposal on the basis of all
the information pertinent to the individual case.
“Whilst the Department is committed to
providing a pre-school place for each child in their immediate
pre-school year, research has shown that there is no discernible benefit
to children of a longer daily pre-school session. In this instance I
have therefore amended the proposal and have given approval for the
establishment of a twenty-six place part-time unit.
This approval is conditional on the school ceasing the practice of
admitting children to its reception class and that the school reaches a
minimum enrolment of 20 pupils in their immediate pre-school year in
September 2012 (the first year of the establishment of the unit).”