East Renfrewshire Council turns down nursery funding

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Parents in East Renfrewshire are forking out thousands of pounds to cover the cost of nursery places for their children after the council turned down their bid for funding.

Four year-old children, born in January and February, are automatically entitled to an extra year of nursery funding when their parents choose to defer entry to the first year of primary school.

However, parents must apply to the council for funding if their child was born between August and December, with some saying they face bills of up to £3,000.

A Freedom of Information request by Give Them Time Scotland, set up by parents to fight for an extra year of funding for all children legally deferring P1 in Scotland, revealed East Renfrewshire Council rejected 10 of 22 applications for 2019/20.

The council said the 12 applications approved are “the most which have ever been granted in a single year”.

In early October, the Scottish Government made a commitment to tackle what Labour MSP Iain Gray called an “unfair anomaly” – but no timescale for the change has been revealed. Campaigners at Give Them Time have said there are “persisting inequities and that our battle continues”.

Catherine Nisbet said her application for her four-year-old son was turned down by East Renfrewshire Council, with the family now paying just under £230 per month for his nursery place.

“It is really difficult for us to see other kids in the same nursery being funded by the council whilst we as a family are having to pay for my son to attend – all because he was born nine days too early for automatic funding,” Ms Nisbet told independent media co-operative The Ferret.

At an East Renfrewshire Council meeting in September, Conservative councillors Stewart Miller and Jim Swift called on the council to write to the Scottish Government to discuss funding for an extra one year’s nursery provision.

That motion was not passed but the authority did agree to write to the government highlighting the work of the Give Them Time campaign.

At the end of October, Maree Todd, minister for children and young people, said the government was “working closely” with local authorities to provide the funding “as soon as is possible”. However, Mr Gray accused the government of “dragging their feet”.

An East Renfrewshire Council spokesman said: “All requests for primary one deferrals, for children whose birthday is between August and December, are considered on an individual basis.

“A number of factors are taken into account, including input from parents and carers, nursery staff, and, where appropriate, educational psychologists.

“Decisions are then based on the specific educational benefits and well-being for each individual child, therefore there is bound to be fluctuation from year to year.

“In 2019/20, the number of requests approved is the most which have ever been granted in a single year, with 12 of 22 applications successful. The previous year, 11 of 12 applications were granted.”