Jo-Anne Dobson and parents Nichola Dewart and son Gavin, Leanne McCauley, Kelly Hamilton and son Vaughn welcome the new nursery unit for Waringstown Primary School. INLM0512-139gc
Jo-Anne Dobson and parents Nichola Dewart and son Gavin, Leanne McCauley, Kelly Hamilton and son Vaughn welcome the new nursery unit for Waringstown Primary School. INLM0512-139gc

AFTER a 36 year wait, Waringstown is finally getting a nursery school.

Parents were overjoyed when the new part-time facility for 26 children was confirmed by the Department of Education on Tuesday.

It’s understood the nursery’s part-time status means it will be open in the mornings only, but as one parent pointed out, a part-time nursery in Waringstown is better than no nursery at all.

Waringstown Primary School Vice Principal Carl McCambley said: “We’re absolutely delighted that the need of the community in Waringstown has been acknowledged. The granting of part-time nursery places at the school is very good news.”

Many local parents had put their weight behind a campaign by local MLA Jo-Anne Dobson to get nursery status for the village.

It’s 36 years since the proposal of a nursery school in Waringstown was first tabled and although it’s come too late for some, the news has been roundly welcomed.

Nicola Dewart’s son Gavin missed out on a nursery school place and the Waringstown woman took on the role of meeting his education needs herself while other children his age attended nursery and pre-school groups.

Nichola said: “It’s good news Waringstown is finally getting a nursery, but it’s too late for Gavin. He’s due to start school in September. Hopefully he’ll get into Waringstown Primary.

“36 years is a long wait. My husband missed out and lots of our family and friends missed out as well, but we’re delighted for the people of Waringstown that this day has finally come.”

Kelly Hamilton is one Waringstown mother who should benefit from the new nursery in the village. She said: “My son Vaughn is two and a half so hopefully he’ll be going to the new nursery in Waringstown.

“My oldest child had to go to King’s Park Nursery but they’re now in Waringstown Primary School.

“It’ll be great if Vaughn is able to go to nursery close to home and both my children will be at Waringstown.”

Leanne McCauley told the ‘MAIL’: “My eldest daughter Lucy went to King’s Park nursery then Waringstown. My youngest girl Katie didn’t get into nursery. We had a funded part-time place at Trinity Park in the morning, then I had to pay to keep her on until the afternoon.”

She added: “It’s a pity the nursery has come too late for my family, but the reason I joined the campaign was to get a nursery in Waringstown for the good of the community.

“It’s an awful time when your child doesn’t get into nursery and I wanted to make sure other Waringstown parents didn’t have to go through that.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson, a member of the Stormont Education Committee, has campaigned on this issue, calling around the houses to raise a petition and continually raising the issue with the SELB and the Minister at Stormont.

Commenting after the announcement she said: “I pay tribute to the hard work and dedication which dozens of Waringstown parents have shown to this cause over the years, it has been a long fight, with a number of setbacks, but Tuesday’s announcement is what we have all been fighting for.

“We knocked every single door in the village and received an overwhelming response. Petitions were signed in the local businesses - the butchers, chemist and even in the chip shop - the whole of the village community united behind a strong and resolute campaign. We thank everyone for their support.”

She added: “Being a resident of the village, with my two boys attending the primary school, I have experienced first-hand the inequality felt by Waringstown parents in relation to not being able to send their children to nursery school.

“Waringstown children deserve the same start on the educational ladder as those living in any other town or village across Northern Ireland.

“It is clear that attendance at pre-school gives our children the best possible start and for too long Waringstown has been without any statutory nursery provision. This balance I am now happy to say is being redressed.

“I would also like to commend the tireless work of Waringstown Primary School Principal Gary Kennedy and his staff and those staff at the SELB who have worked continually to bring the news we have received today.

“Finally we have the received the recognition for Waringstown which was first sought in 1976 by the Board of Governors at the primary school. This is fantastic news for the parents and young children of the village and I look forward to seeing the first young pupils attending the nursery in the near future.”

The DUP’s Cllr Carla Lockhart said: “I am delighted at the announcement made in relation to approval for a nursery unit at Waringstown Primary School.”

“This is a much needed additional service that I and my DUP colleagues have lobbied the SELB, the Minister and Department on at every opportunity over a lengthy period of time. This announcement is a reward for the concerted campaign that has included parents, teachers and political representatives. Nursery provision in Waringstown has been lacking for many years and with an increasing population and particularly young families living in the Waringstown area I believe it is their right to have such a provision within the town.

“Waringstown Primary School has large numbers attending it year on year and there are many children in the area requiring a pre-school nursery place.

“I am pleased that the Department has delivered on this issue. It certainly is a win for the local community and for the many people who got on board the campaign to lobby for this much needed service.

“I look forward to seeing it operational in the near future.”

Commenting on his decision, Education Minister John O’Dowd said: “The establishment of this new facility will be a welcome announcement to the area and will provide nursery provision to children who currently travel outside their immediate locality to access a pre-school place.

“It is common knowledge that my department faces significant financial pressures, particularly on its front-line schools budget. It is therefore important that we maximise the impact of available pre-school resources and avoid unnecessary over-provision or duplication. On this occasion there was a clear gap in provision and a need to create more pre-school places for the benefit of the children in the area.

“My department is committed to providing a place for each child in their immediate pre-school year. Research has shown that there is no discernable benefit to children of a longer daily pre-school session, therefore in this instance I have modified the proposal and given approval for the establishment of a 26 place part-time unit.”

Lurgan Councillor Sinn Fein Liam Mackle welcomed the announcement commenting it was a boost for a rural village area which was so often ignored when it came to the allocation of provisions.

Cllr Mackle said: “The announcement is pleasant news in the midst of a catalogue of cutbacks in services to the public. This new facility will be very much appreciated by those families from Waringstown and the surrounding countryside who currently have to travel outside the area to access nursery places.”

He noted that at a time when all Government Departments are being asked to curtail spending an announcement such as this is recognition of the particular needs of this area and he observed,

“It is vitally important that rural communities have the infrastructure to maintain their communities and the provision of these nursery places will play a vital role in that regard. It is fantastic news that the Minister has been able to make this provision for the Waringstown area,” he concluded.