Education news

Extra places awarded to 75 schools to cope with massive rise in pupils

Schools were awarded more than 1,000 extra places

EXTRA places were awarded to grammar schools to cope with a massive rise in pupils - even though neighbouring colleges have empty desks.

Almost 1,300 more children are transferring from P7 to post-primary this year compared to last.

They were informed on Saturday which schools they will attend.

Just 226 pupils were initially left unplaced - 0.94 per cent of all those transferring. As of yesterday, this figure has reduced to 216.

All those without a school can reapply to those with spaces. There are 2,334 places available across the north.

The Education Authority and Department of Education had come under fire from some disappointed parents who accused them of not taking steps to respond to a spike in the birth rate.

However, more than 1,000 additional places were made available for September 2019.

The Irish News has obtained a breakdown of the schools that benefited.

There were 413 additional places awarded to 20 different schools at the start of the transfer application process in March.

A further 627 were created through `temporary variations'. These will allow a total of 55 schools to exceed their usual admissions number for 2019/20.

The department will typically reject expansion bids from schools if officials believe that they may have an adverse impact on neighbouring post-primaries, or if there is surplus capacity nearby.

In total, 11 grammar schools in Belfast were given a boost this year, even though some non-grammar schools have empty desks.

St Dominic's in west Belfast asked that its number be increased by 25. It is understood it received 235 applications for 141 places.

There are three non-grammar schools in west Belfast that still have places available.

In south Belfast, Aquinas Grammar was given 20 extra places, while the neighbouring St Joseph's has space. It is expected to soon fill up as well, however.

Across the north, 25 of 66 grammars, and 46 of 130 secondary schools, were allowed to accept more pupils.

North Belfast (107) and Magherafelt (75) were among the areas given the most. Integrated schools shared almost 170 extra places between them.

The department said places were only approved at schools "where there are no alternative options available for children within the sector of the children's preference and within a reasonable travelling distance of their home address".

"The additional places reported in March were one-year increases to help cater for increased demand this year," a department spokeswoman said.

"The increase at Aquinas therefore is one year in duration. When additional places were allocated to Aquinas it was forecast that St Joseph's College would reach capacity at or shortly following the conclusion of the process.

"It is expected that St Joseph's College, like a number of schools on the list of schools with places available at the conclusion of the process, will fill to capacity imminently therefore parents are encouraged to nominate alternative schools promptly to maximise the options available to them.

"Securing a placement at this stage will not affect a parent's ability to appeal against the decision of another school not to admit their child."

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