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Nurseries get first catchment areas

East Renfrewshire has become the first authority to introduce catchment areas for nurseries.

From January, nursery schools, nursery classes and family centres will feed into designated primary schools. Until now, parents could choose to send their child to an education department nursery anywhere in the council's area.

In future, they will be allocated a local place. Parents wishing to place their son or daughter in another nursery will be subject to an "entry priority system" if demand exceeds available places. The four criteria applied include social and medical needs.

Eddie Phillips, the council's acting education convener, said: "Nursery education is now part of the 3-18 curriculum for excellence approach which looks at children progressing through the system from three onwards. We already have effective primary-secondary transfer arrangements, and it makes good sense to formalise nursery-primary links."

A spokesman for East Renfrewshire rejected suggestions that the authority was introducing a formal placing request system for pre-schoolers. The new system was designed to associate children clearly with the primary school in their locality. It would also reflect current practice for the vast majority of families.

"We are not saying children have to go to their local nursery," the spokesman said. "But, if they do go to their local nursery, it is that nursery's associated primary they will go into if they don't tell us otherwise."

The new system is not expected to affect parents who, for instance, live in East Renfrewshire and choose to place their child in a Glasgow nursery close to their work - and vice versa. They will still keep their right to a place in their child's local primary.

Currently, fewer than 9 per cent of pre-five children who live in East Renfrewshire attend nurseries in Glasgow, and a similar number of pre-five children from Glasgow attend nurseries in East Renfrewshire. Nine per cent is set as the trigger point for reviewing cross-boundary arrangements on pre-school places.

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