A SCOTLAND-WIDE campaign launching this week aims to end a "crude and obstructive" postcode lottery of funding for parents who want to defer their child’s entry to school.

The Give Them Time campaign, backed by leading children’s charities and parent groups, seeks to ensure all families who want to delay the start of formal schooling get funding for an extra year of nursery.

The current age for starting school in Scotland is four or five – but any child who is still four on the day school starts has a legal right to defer.

However, only children born in January and February have a guarantee of an additional year of pre-school funding.

That means thousands of children born between mid-August and February have to apply for discretionary funding to pay the cost of nursery fees for an extra year.

Research by Give Them Time, which will launch on Tuesday, found a significant disparity between councils over how many of these discretionary requests are granted.

Angus, East Ayrshire, Glasgow, Highland, Inverclyde, Falkirk, Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire and Moray grant almost all requests.

However, over the last few years Stirling has granted only 39 per cent of requests, West Lothian has approved 63 per cent and Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire are rejecting around a quarter.

Edinburgh has rejected nearly half of all requests leaving more than 350 families paying for a nursery place. Falkirk has rejected nearly half of requests in recent years, but last year began to grant all requests.

The cost of paying for an additional year of nursery could be as much as £10,000 for a family with one child attending a private nursery five days a week.

Parent Patricia Anderson, who founded Give Them Time after realising families were in the dark over the right to defer, called for councils to approve all requests.

She said: “Parents' legal right to defer their four-year-old when they think it is in their best interests shouldn't be dependent on councils' funding decisions, but it often is as they can't afford to defer otherwise.

“A truly child-centred decision cannot be made when there are budget concerns in the background which is why we are campaigning for automatic funding for an extra year of nursery for all four-year-olds whose parents want to defer them.”

The campaign has attracted high-profile backing from two of Scotland’s leading parent bodies.

Joanna Murphy, chair of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said parents were frequently not provided with transparent information about deferrals.

She said: "Parents should know their rights so they can decide what is best for their individual child. We believe the same opportunities for extra nursery funding should be available to every family across Scotland and not be dependent on postcode.”

Eileen Prior, executive director of parent organisation Connect, said in some areas parents were not being advised of children’s rights to deferral.

She said: "Worse still, deliberately obstructive practices and misleading information are used to discourage parents from applying for deferral for their child and exercising their rights.

“Processes for applying can be complicated, bureaucratic and slow. Families have a right to clear information and to fair, open procedures. They are also entitled to know what their legal rights are.”

Some of Scotland’s leading children’s charities have also backed the campaign.

Marguerite Hunter-Blair, chief executive of the Play Scotland charity, which promotes outdoor learning, said: “It is essential all parents have accurate information so they can make informed choices based on the age and stage of their child’s development.

“Decisions about deferrals need to be based on the best interests of the child and applied in a consistent and equitable manner across Scotland.”

Jackie Brock, chief executive of Children in Scotland, said current policies tended to focus on a “crude financial decision”.

She added: "This difficulty can be compounded if communication with parents is poor, information about the process is opaque, and parents are made to feel like they are asking for a special privilege rather than something that is in the absolute best interests of their child and family.”

Alison Payne, research director of the think tank Reform Scotland, who raised the issue of fair access to nursery funding in 2013, said: "We think that the guaranteed additional year of funding should be extended to all children who are due to start school at the age of four and have a right to defer."