Simpson and O’Dowd try to address pre-school places

Pacemaker Press 26/5/2015' Sinn Fein John O'Dowd speaks to the media as  Northern Ireland assembly members debate the final stage of the controversial welfare reform bill at Stormont.'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 26/5/2015' Sinn Fein John O'Dowd speaks to the media as Northern Ireland assembly members debate the final stage of the controversial welfare reform bill at Stormont.'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The Education Minister has assured Upper Bann MP David Simpson that he is ‘more than happy’ to discuss the allocation of pre-school places in the area.

Mr O’Dowd made the statement after being accused by Mr Simpson of rejecting a request to meet about the issue.

Mr Simpson explained that he had asked for an urgent meeting with the Minister, following an ‘unprecedented level of resentment from parents who were unable to receive school places for their children’.

“Having been told by our Education Minister that he is basically too busy to discuss the admission of children into primary school, questions will now be raised about the Minister’s capabilities to address the concerns of parents and young children. I am deeply unhappy that the Minister is too busy to facilitate a face-to-face discussion on this matter of urgency. My offer of a meeting is still on the table - I trust that he will find the time.”

Mr O’Dowd responded by explaining that he tries to facilitate meetings with elected representatives from all parties, but that time constraints occasionally prevent him from doing so.

“I advised (Mr Simpson) that the Education Authority would continue to work with parents to place children before the start of the new term in September, and I would be happy to consider specific issues of concern if he wrote to me with more details.”

Mr O’Dowd added that, if Mr Simpson was still keen to meet with him, he would gladly do so.