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Parents form group to fight for extra Catholic school places

St Ita's PS is oversubscribed every year

PARENTS of children who missed out on places at in-demand Catholic primary schools are appealing to education chiefs to find a solution.

Close to 80 children in the last three years are known to have missed out on P1 places at two Catholic primary schools in the parish Drumbo and Carryduff.

Dozens more have been turned away this year and frustrated parents have now come together to put pressure on the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS).

The two schools - St Ita's and St Joseph's - are oversubscribed every year.

St Ita's in south Belfast is one of the newest Catholic schools in the north, having opened in September 2005. Its creation was regarded as something of a rarity - a new school in an established area is still something that happens infrequently.

CCMS launched the St Ita's project because St Joseph's in Carryduff, which opened in 1955, could no longer meet the demand for Catholic education in the area.

St Joseph's witnessed a massive increase in pupils from the mid-1990s.

With south Belfast perceived as a positive and safe place to live and send children to school, the numbers seeking a place at St Ita's has spiralled.

The school was originally built to house 75 pupils in each year group, but in 2013 was allowed to expand to admit 82. So fierce is competition, however, children living in the parish are continuing to miss out.

St Joseph's can take 60 pupils in P1 but has attracted applications of 70, 74 and 66 in last three years.

St Ita's can admit 82 in P1, but has been allowed to take up to 90 in some years. It received 103, 109 and 103 applications in the last three years.

Parents have formed a pressure group to try and draw attention towards the situation in the parish which, they say, will only get worse if it is not properly addressed.

It is understood to have issued letters highlighting concerns to the CCMS, school principals and governors.

They say a solution may be that St Joseph's has a classroom not in use.

St Joseph's was built as a 15-classroom school, but only 14 are used - two for each year group. It is understood the room is used for children's education.

CCMS last night said it was aware that there was over-demand for Catholic schools in Carryduff and the wider south and east Belfast areas.

The council said it was in discussion with Catholic schools to find some solution for children before September.

It is also looking at a longer-term plan for the area adding that the situation was continually being kept under review.

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