FAMILIES who applied for funding to keep their children in nursery for an extra year have been given the green light by East Lothian Council.

Several parents had spoken out in anger after their Primary 1 deferral funding requests were rejected by the council, which last year had the worst record for approving the applications of any Scottish local authority.

This year only two of 24 applications by parents were approved; and of the 22 refused, 13 parents appealed.

Now the council has said all 22 cases turned down for funding will be granted the money.

However they made it clear the decision was because of the current Covid-19 pandemic and a review of their policy would be carried out at a later date.

One mother told how her children were born two years apart but under the current council policy her youngest son would have had to start P1 this summer while her oldest, who was born in January, was allowed to defer for a year, was in P2.

She said: “My youngest was born at the end of December so they are fully two years apart yet I am not being allowed to defer their start at school and they will be only one year apart in education terms.”

Current legislation allows parents of children who are born in January and February to automatically receive funding for a delay in starting Primary One until they are five years old.

Parents of children born between August and December, who would also start school aged four, can also defer their primary one start for a year but the council can refuse to pay for their nursery care.

Last year, East Lothian Council approved 43 per cent of applications – the lowest percentage of any local authority in Scotland. This year the figure fell to less than 10 per cent.

The council also refuses to allow children whose parents opt to keep them home and fund the nursery place themselves to remain in school nurseries.

Parents who decide to pay for an additional year of nursery themselves to keep their children out for a year face bills of up to £9,000 and a hunt for alternative child care places.

Another mum who was refused funding said she had initially been supported in her view that her child was too immature to start school by her nursery.

But they withdrew that support after pressure from the council’s education department, she said.

“They were told that they couldn’t support us because we didn’t meet the council policy criteria and withdrew their support,” she explained.

“Our views meant nothing and the impact on our child meant nothing.”

And other parents expressed fears that their children were being robbed of nursery experience because they have been in lockdown for some of the vital months they would have had and would have no transition into school.

One mum said: Children who start school at 4-years-old already receive a year less nursery time than those who are older, that has been reduced further by the closure of nurseries.“How can we ask these young children to go from months at home with their family to suddenly starting primary one with no transition?”

A spokesperson for East Lothian Council said: “confirmed they have now agreed to approve all deferral requests for the year ahead.

They said: “As a result of the ongoing closure of schools and nurseries, we have been reviewing applications for deferred entry to P1, ahead of session 2020/21. Due to the current situation, applications for deferred entry and a further funded year have now been approved. Following the full, national implementation of the expansion of early learning and childcare, we will carry out a review of our wider policy on deferred entry.”

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