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Parents' campaign leads to extra Catholic school places

Dozens of children have been turned away from in-demand schools this year

EXTRA places are being made available at in-demand Catholic primary schools after a campaign by parents.

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

And in south Belfast, St Bernard's PS has also had to turn away close to 50 children in a three year period.

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

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

St Ita's 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.

St Bernard's in Rosetta is also oversubscribed every year, although was allowed to take extra pupils in 2015, when it received 87 applications for 60 places, and again in 2016.

Parents formed a pressure group to try and draw attention towards the situation which, they said, would only get worse if not properly addressed.

CCMS has now responded by allowing St Bernard's and St Joseph's to expand. It is also looking at a longer-term plan for the area adding that the situation is continually being kept under review.

"CCMS is pleased to confirm that a temporary variation to admissions numbers in September 2017 has been approved for both St Joseph's Primary School and St Bernard's Primary School," a spokeswoman said.

"This will enable St Bernard's to admit 84 children - an additional 24 pupils - and St Joseph's to admit 68 children - an additional eight pupils - in September 2017. CCMS is delighted with this outcome and will work with trustees in coming months to explore longer-term enrolment needs for the wider area."

The Drumbo and Carryduff Parents' Association welcomed the additional placed as "fantastic news for some of our parents and children".

"There's further work still to be done but really encouraging progress on the issue," the group said.

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