The Department of Education and Children recognises that all children benefit from suitable early years education from the age of three.
Pre-school units are continually being established in identified priority areas, as part of the Foundation Stage of Island primary schools, as and when funding becomes available.
Half day places are made available to pupils whose 4th birthday falls during the academic year commencing 1st September. The Department-run units are staffed on a ratio of one teacher and one nursery nurse for every 20 places. Parents of the Island's four- year-old children are eligible to apply for their child to attend one of the pre-school (sometimes referred to as nursery) classes but priority is given to those living within the school catchment area and then those outwith the school catchment area prioritised by geographical proximity to the school.
There are currently 11 pre-school units operated by the Department of Education – at Auldyn and Jurby schools in the north of the Island, at Peel Clothworkers and St John's in the west, at Victoria Road in the south and at Onchan, Ashley Hill, Cronk-y-Berry, Ballacottier, Manor Park and Willastonschools in the Douglas/Onchan area. Pre-school places are also available in classes at Andreas and Bride, Anagh Coar, Ballasalla, St Thomas's, Vallajeelt and Foxdale schools.
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The majority of pre-school provision on the Island is, however, through private agencies and individuals. The Department of Education and Children does not seek to take over such provision, but it seeks to work with private providers to produce quality pre-school experience that leads on to school. To this end, the Department works in partnership with the Department of Social Care to provide training and support for all registered early years settings. The Early Years Foundation Stage Framework has been made available to all practitioners from January 2007 and has formed the basis for the foundation stage curriculum in the Island's nurseries and reception classes since September 2008.
Pre-School Assessment Centre
The Department of Education and Children operates a Pre-School Assessment Centre at the Pulrose Youth & Community Centre, Pulrose, Douglas, IM2 1AT. Tel: 01624 629943.
The primary aim of the Pre-School Assessment Centre is the early identification, assessment, treatment and placement of children with learning and/or behavioural difficulties. The Centre operates in close consultation with parents, medical officers, speech therapists, physiotherapists and educational psychologists.
Children referred to the Pre-School Assessment Centre undergo a thorough assessment of their needs and any gaps or difficulties in their development are clearly identified and met by a small steps teaching programme tailored to their individual needs. The Pre-School Assessment Centre provides a fun but structured learning environment in which children can develop the social, cognitive and emotional skills required to work with their peer group.
The vast majority of children who attend the Pre-school Assessment Centre will move into mainstream education, but a small percentage are placed in special units attached to primary schools.