PARENTS of children with a profound disability should be offered the chance to defer their education for a year and receive extra funded childcare, an SNP councillor has insisted.

Aberdeenshire councillor Louise McAllister has said a "postcode lottery" of some councils supporting parents in this situation while other local authorities do not must be ended.

She has lodged a resolution at the SNP conference this weekend calling for the party to recommend that children with a profound disability – be that learning or physical – who have reached the age of five by the start of the academic year should be considered for an extra funded year of early years education and childcare right across the country.

As things stand, if a child is due to turn five between August and mid-February – whenever the cut-off date may be in the year in question – they are automatically entitled to have their education deferred for another year and receive an extra 12 months of funded early learning and childcare.

But if a child turns five before the start of the school year in August - no matter their circumstances or how close to the start of the year they have turned five - they are expected to start school.

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McAllister has said a “postcode lottery” exists where some councils in Scotland are willing to consider children with disabilities for an extra funded year of childcare, but others – including Tory-led Aberdeenshire – will not entertain the idea.

She is hoping her resolution, set to be presented at conference in Aberdeen on Tuesday, will help ensure children have an equal chance to succeed in later life.

McAllister (below), who used to be a learning development tutor, told The National: “In my last three years I’ve had a few families contact me because their children have quite profound learning disabilities and they have not been treated very well.

“In Aberdeenshire there is a point-blank refusal to entertain in any way the notion there could be an additional funded year of early learning and childcare for the very few children in these circumstances, for whom that would really make a difference.

“I’ve pushed this because we need to have equity and parity for everyone. It’s a postcode lottery at the moment as to whether families are supported.

The National:

“I know primary one and two are both very much play-led learning, so the transition can be quite smooth from nursery, some children will not notice a huge difference, and that keeps getting quoted to me.

“My issue lies with what happens further down the line, what happens not just throughout education – when the move is more towards academic achievement and structured learning – but also those big milestones in life and in particular that transition between primary and secondary education.”

McAllister, who used to work with children with profound disabilities, said she would like to see the Scottish Government make an adjustment in legislation to instruct all councils to support families in these situations to access one extra year of funded childcare before entering primary one, should it be identified that this would be beneficial.

She has cited that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states the best interests of the child must be top priority in all decisions and actions that affect them, while it additionally states education must develop every child’s personality, talents and abilities to the full.

“I have had people coming to me in tears because their child has only just managed to cope with nursery and then is being pushed into school and families cannot challenge it, ” said McAllister.

“Every child should have a right to an education, of course, but it’s having that education at the right time and delivered in the right way that’s very important.

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“We’re talking about people who are going to be in our society and it seems inhumane to me to not give them equity of opportunity to manage life. This is one year, so that person can have a better life for the next 70 years, so I think that’s where our focus needs to be.”

The resolution, which has been backed by Scottish Government minister Gillian Martin, states: “Conference recognises that, for some young children with a profound disability, going into the education system can be a daunting prospect for both these young children and their families.

“Conference notes that all children are obliged to be in Primary One and in formal education by the age of five.

“However, conference recommends that children with a profound disability, with the potential to impact their education in later years, but who have reached the age of five by the beginning of the school year, should be considered for, and supported to remain, in early years for one additional, funded year.

“Conference recommends further that all Scottish councils should allow for children with a profound disability, to have the choice of one additional funded year in pre-school education.”

 An Aberdeenshire Council spokesperson said: “Aberdeenshire is committed to ensuring that children’s needs, however complex, are met in P1.

“We follow statutory guidance on deferred school entry, and have a clear framework for considering exceptional circumstances where a child’s needs are such that they would benefit from remaining in an early learning setting, rather than progress to primary.

“Any decisions are based on advice from advice from health professionals alongside the views of a range of education professionals.”