Parents group back plans to defer Edinburgh P1s starting school for another year

A parents campaign group has thrown its weight behind plans to force Edinburgh City Council to allow primary-age children to defer for another year.

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Green councillors in the capital are calling on the council to automatically allow primary-age children to defer, and to fully fund nursery spaces, due to the disruption to pre-school learning caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Each year a number of families whose children are due to start school before the age of five contact Edinburgh City Council seeking to defer the start of primary school for a year andto secure funding for a further year in a pre-school setting.

Children who are not five until the following January or February automatically get Scottish government funding for a deferred year if they apply, but those whose fifth birthday falls between August and December are funded on a case by case basis by the council.

From 2023, children born from August to December will also be able to get deferred early learning and childcare places funded by the Scottish Government, and some Scottish local authorities are already allowing parents to automatically defer until the following primary school intake year.

However, Edinburgh City Council is still only allowing this on a ‘case by case’ basis, and now the city’s Green Party councillors want education chiefs to automatically allow parents to defer, due to the disruption caused to nursery learning over the course of the pandemic.

Parents group backs call to defer P1 and nursery new-starts

Now, a parents campaign group, ‘Give Them Time’, is throwing its weight behind the Greens’ campaign.

Diane Delaney, a campaign spokesperson for Give Them Time, said: “The Give Them Time campaign has been inundated with enquiries from concerned parents and professionals over the last few months because of the practice, attitudes and policy position Edinburgh City Council has taken.

“That being to dismiss the recommendations and views of professionals working with four-year-old children including health visitors, early years practitioners and managers, allied health professionals and medical experts.

“This on top of the legal right of a parent to decide that their child should defer school start at age four.

“The council appears to take a position that only children with severe additional support needs are eligible to access discretionary deferral funding and this is contrary to legislation and policy guidance alongside previous statements made by the previous minister Maree Todd and COSLA.

“Freedom of Information requests, anecdotal evidence and Scottish Government statistics in fact reflect that Edinburgh have funded amongst the least deferrals in Scotland across the last seven years, spending per preschool child is less than other parts of Scotland and there is significantly higher levels of poverty that is escalating in part of Edinburgh.

“Last year Edinburgh funded 97% of discretionary deferrals and Covid-19 was noted as being part of the justification for this decision.

“This year is no different from last, in fact public health experts have stated that impacts may have been worse this year with longer lockdowns/ restrictions, closures of early years services and social-economic implications adversely affecting families.”

The Green Party motion will be heard at a meeting of the council’s education committee on Thursday, May 27.

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