THE Scottish Executive is to find up to pound;8 million to allow parents to defer children's entry to primary for a year and keep them in nursery.
Parents have campaigned for some time through the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, arguing that at the age of four and a half children are too immature to be in the same class as children who may be a year older. Those who choose the option to defer entry will now see their children entering primary 1 at the age of five and a half.
Some 3,000 children - around 5 per cent of the P1 entry - are currently on a delayed start. But many parents have been prevented under existing nursery regulations from extending the time their children are in pre-school.
Ministers last year set up an inquiry into deferred entry but it was only this week that Nicol Stephen, Deputy Education Minister, announced the change of heart.
New arrangements will come in next year when children turning four in January and February are eligible to enter school in August. There will be no beefit this coming session, although ministers are advising local authorities to view sympathetically appeals for delayed entry.
Judith Gillespie, the SPTC's development manager, said: "We are very pleased the Executive has moved in this direction. Parents will no longer have to plead that their child has special educational needs to ensure an extra year. It is a recognition that being young or immature is an issue to be addressed. Parents will be invited to discuss these issues and talk through what it involves."
Those who take up the option would have a maximum of seven terms in nursery, Mrs Gillespie said. Key decisions about P1 entry would still be heavily influenced by the advice of nursery staff.
Mr Stephen said: "The decision to allow the very youngest children in the year group the option of an extra nursery year is an important step forward. It should not be seen, however, as a blanket recommendation to parents to seek deferrals. The interest of the child should always come first."