A mother whose youngest child was turned down by the nursery attended by his three older siblings has said she is “very disappointed” at the decision.
Alana Montgomery is one of a number of parents who have been voicing their dismay after finding out at the weekend that their child had not secured a place at their first-choice nursery.
Mrs Montgomery’s children Glen (8), Danny (7) and Millie-Jane (5) all attended Hart Memorial Nursery, before moving to Richmount PS, but Matthew (3) was not successful.
She said, “I phoned the school on Monday morning and was told it no longer went by the birthday but distance from the house. We live on the Richmount Road and apparently the cut-off was 0.8 miles.
“My other children loved the nursery and I did a lot for the school so it is devastating not to get a place there for Matthew.”
Although there are non-funded places at Richmount Playgroup and Peatlands Park Playgroup, Mrs Montgomery would prefer a funded, full-time nursery place.
She said, “I feel there is more structure with a nursery place and the hours would suit better. ”
Mrs Montgomery runs a pre-owned baby equipment business from home and plans to move the business to Bridge Street, Portadown, on May 1.
She said, “My husband and I both work and I will be bringing business into Portadown. I think everyone should be entitled to a free pre-school place.”
Joe Garvey of Richmount Playgroup said the playgroup had lobbied the education board, unsuccessfully, to recognise the need for nursery provision in the area.
He said, “That would have alleviated the pressure on schools like the Hart. It’s the unfairness of the system whereby some parents have to pay and others don’t.”
Among the comments on Facebook were those from mothers who felt disadvantaged by working part-time. One said, “I was absolutely devastated my wee girl got turned down and was fourth down the criteria list as I was working 16 hours a week.”
Another, whose child did get a nursery place, posted, “It is an unfair system and every child deserves a good education, regardless of status. It’s important not to place blame on people just because of their situation - the system is flawed.”
A Department of Education spokesperson said admissions criteria are set by the schools but legislation requires that the top criterion prioritises children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.