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Analysis: No one disputes the system of transfer is far from perfect, cruel even

226 pupils were left without a Year 8 place after transfer letters were sent out

The social media criticism following the issuing of school places, in which a smaller number of children missed out this year compared to last, made for difficult reading.

No one disputes the system of transfer is far from perfect, cruel even, and there are kids left devastated every year.

It is apparent, however, that there remain those who do not understand how the system works.

People needed to blame someone for the 226 children left without a place - and quickly rounded on the Education Authority (EA).

The EA only facilitates the process. Parents may as well have blamed the postman for delivering the letters.

It is the schools, not the EA, which make decisions based on their published admissions criteria. Some schools set entrance tests - but don't have to. Thousands of children sit these tests, but again, don't have to - unless they want a place in grammar school.

It should be made clear, but perhaps it is not, that not everyone who sits the 11-plus, and not everyone who scores the top grade, will win a place in their first, second or even third choice school.

Transfer is simply the process of making sure grammars fill up. Once they do, a line is drawn and it makes zero difference if a child is 20 or one mark off.

It also depends on which schools are sought. So, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that a child with an A who applies to, say, three grammar schools, misses out on all three. Grammars have a limited number of places. If they get 160 As seeking 150 places, 10 will miss out. Harsh, yes, and the answer is not just "create more places" at that school.

There is a wealth of information available ahead of making a child's application. Parents know the 11-plus result a good few weeks before the application deadline. There are also websites that show the grades or scores that were needed for admittance at every grammar school going back to 2010.

The advice is to put down as many schools as possible - and at least one non-grammar. Some choose not to do this. Some only put down one school and hope for the best. Some only put down grammar schools, which is a risky tactic.

In south and east Belfast, even an A is not enough for three Catholic grammar schools - pupils must meet other non-academic criteria.

It is also possible that a child may fail to meet criteria of non-grammar schools. One school may have siblings as its top tie-breaker, while one might have a geographical criterion.

Only a very small number - less than 1 per cent - are without a place, but the number of available desks at schools dwarfs this.

So who is to blame? Of course it is the system, but everyone is complicit.

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