Model schools awarded hundreds of extra pupil places
TWO schools praised for their work in tackling educational underachievement in deprived areas are being given hundreds of extra pupil places.
The model schools are the last two non-selective secondary options for children in north and west Belfast seeking non-Catholic education - and both are oversubscribed.
Those parts of the city have seen several names disappear from the schools map in the last two decades.
Forth River, Cairnmartin, Mount Gilbert, Dunlambert/Castle, Larkfield and Balmoral were all involved in mergers then later shut.
Last year, Belfast Boys' Model School was oversubscribed with 1,003 pupils enrolled despite having just 905 approved places. The Belfast Model School for Girls was also oversubscribed with 983 pupils enrolled against an approved enrolment of 950.
Both are now to be allowed to grow to 1,250.
The expansion plans were approved by Department of Education Permanent Secretary Derek Baker.
Mr Baker said the boys' school was very popular in the local community as evidenced by demand from its feeder primaries.
The demographic projections suggested that pressure for additional places was likely to increase in the future.
Wards served by the Boys' Model appear high in the list of areas of multiple deprivation.
Mr Baker said there was a need for action to maintain and develop efforts to tackle underachievement among boys in the greater Shankill and north Belfast areas.
Expanding the school would ensure places were available in a post-primary "that is rooted in the local community and has a significant track record in addressing the particular educational challenges that present and a history of achievement amongst boys".
Mr Baker said the girls' school was also popular with strong admissions and enrolment trends and growth in numbers at its feeder primary schools.
The school's location, and the availability of places to meet demand, he said, were central to efforts to tackle educational underachievement.
"Strong links with the local community are important in this regard," Mr Baker said.