Education news

Union warns more children set to miss out on first choice primary school this year

UTU General Secretary Avril Hall Callaghan

TEACHERS are warning that more children will miss out on their first choice primary schools this year.

With just days left until the admissions deadline, the Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU) said staff are "braced for mounting frustration among parents".

There are concerns that with a higher number of children seeking places this year, due to an increase in the birth rate, it may be harder to get into some schools.

The UTU described this year's application process as a "scramble".

The Education Authority (EA) has repeatedly reminded people that places are not allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Schools and play groups will only consider applications after the closing date of January 31.

A series of admission clinics have been held to help parents "overcome barriers" presented by a new online system.

Thousands applied for places on the first day - with a "small number" experiencing difficulties.

UTU general secretary Avril Hall Callaghan said "parents' fears are mounting that they won't be able to get their children into the school of their first choice at all".

"In the past number of years we have already seen some areas where there just aren't enough local school places and as the birth rate rises this is going to become an increasing problem," she said.

"Just a couple of weeks ago new figures from the Department of Education showed a growth in primary school enrolments of around 3,000 last year. This isn't a surprise. We have all seen the spike in pupil numbers coming since the birth rate went up a few years ago.

"However, it is the children's misfortune that they're entering the system at the most precarious time in the history of education in a generation as it teeters on near bankruptcy. Without adequate resources to provide the education our children deserve now, how will schools deliver that to 3,000 more?"

Ms Hall Callaghan said children would have to travel further if their local schools could not accommodate growing numbers.

"Fewer children will get into the schools they want and potentially face longer journeys to get to a school, with all the added expense for families and the EA which that will bring," she said.

"It is a generation of children who will face the fall-out of the present political inertia."

Parents will be advised of the outcome of their applications in May.

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