Reserved places improve access for Falkirk nurseries

Falkirk Council has taken steps to increase the level of access to nursery schools
Falkirk Council has taken steps to increase the level of access to nursery schools

Parents will be able to take advantage of reserved places to get their children into council- operated nursery schools.

At a meeting of Falkirk Council’s education executive committee on Tuesday, members agreed to introduce a reserved place policy for its nursery schools, similar to the system currently in operation within the area’s primary and secondary schools.

Part of a plan to increase the availability of nursery places for children, the new approach has been boosted by members also agreeing to increase the capacity within nurseries to meet catchment area demand.

However, the new policy, which will come into force for the 2015/16 intake in August, only extends to nurseries which are affiliated with primary schools.

Council officers stated one of the main complaints they receive is from parents who can get their children into primary school, but cannot get them into the associated nursery and have to transport their child to another facility.

Councillor David Alexander said: “There is nothing more frustrating than having two children at primary school and another who cannot get into the nursery at the same school.”

Officers stated: “This new approach will make it more likely pupils can commence nursery education at the same primary school they will attend as primary pupils. The introduction of reserved places will also reduce the likelihood additional staffing resources require to be allocated.”

While he welcomed the new admissions policy, Councillor Alexander said he felt it might have a negative impact on nurseries not included in the plan, affecting their pupil numbers.

He said: “I can understand why we want to have reserved places, but this could have a knock on effect on partner nurseries in the voluntary or private sector.”

Under the old system Falkirk Council allocated nursery places in April for children to commence in the next session. Priority was given to pupils living in the associated primary school catchment area and any remaining places in the nursery class were then made available to meet demand from pupils living outside the catchment area.

If a pupil moved into the catchment area during the school year - and the nursery class was full - they would be offered a vacant place at a nearby nursery class and put on a waiting list for a place at their local catchment nursery class.

Now, under the new allocations policy for the 20015-16 session, Bainsford nursery in Falkirk has 40 total places available, 20 in the morning and 20 in the afternoon, creating two reserved places. The fact new housing is being built in the area adds another reserved place, increasing the total to three.

Grangemouth’s Bowhouse nursery, in contrast, has no new housing being built but it has a larger capacity than Bainsford, 60 total places - 30 in the morning and 30 in the afternoon, so it too has three reserved spaces.

The new admissions setup follows moves in February which saw the local authority increase the capacity of nurseries in the area by hiring 12 additional staff and pledging to create a further 196 places in council operated nurseries.