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Education Minister approves new part-time nursery unit at Orchard County Primary School, Portadown

22 December, 2011 - by John O'Dowd

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).”

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