Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Tuesday, 7 June 2011 16:41 UK

Nursery provision

Inadequate nursery provision in Northern Ireland came under scrutiny by MLAs, on 7 June 2011.

The SDLP's Conall McDevitt proposed a motion urging the education minister to ensure nursery places are available for all children.

Mr McDevitt criticised the social disadvantage criteria which give preference to children from socially disadvantaged circumstances when allotting free nursery places.

He said "it does the right thing for some people in the community at the expense of others".

He also called on an immediate review to ensure changes are made before the next school year and for the introduction of a statutory right to pre-school education.

A Sinn Fein amendment proposed by Phil Flanagan said a review should take into consideration the educational benefits and financial implications of legislation to make pre-school education a statutory right.

The DUP's Sydney Anderson said the lack of nursery provision was "testament to Catriona Ruane's failure", referring to the previous education minister.

In her maiden speech Judith Cochrane of the Alliance Party questioned the accuracy of figures suggesting that 10% of parents do not wish to send their children to pre-school.

The SDLP's Karen McKevitt and Jo-Anne Dobson of the UUP also gave their maiden speeches to the house.

Mrs Dobson said that "allocating places boils down to little more than a lottery".

Education Minister John O'Dowd said the socially disadvantaged "need an advantage in education".

He said the "research is not there" to justify the £70m that would be required to make nursery education a statutory right.


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