Integrated primary school loses 50 pupil places
ONE of the north's newest - and growing - integrated schools has had its pupil numbers reduced and capped.
Killyleagh IPS was told its current enrolment numbers "do not reflect reality".
The Department of Education has approved a cut from 175 to 126 children.
The change has the effect of removing `empty desks', on paper.
There were fewer than 80 children at the rural school in 2015, well below the number needed to be `sustainable'.
It officially transformed from the state controlled to integrated sectors a year later and enrolments increased significantly.
The number of Catholic children has more than doubled since.
It is in line to benefit from the School Enhancement Programme (SEP) which will result in it having access to improved accommodation suitable for a five class base school.
It has been predicted that the school will grow when the SEP is completed, as it will have a "very attractive offering to parents" by way of better accommodation.
The proposal that recommended enrolment numbers should be cut added that if the school increased in popularity, "it is possible that a further development proposal may be brought forward seeking to revert to higher approved numbers".
Department officials said admissions and enrolment trends suggested that the proposed numbers were "realistic".
Approving the plan, they noted, would still leave some limited room for growth, while removing 49 integrated places from the area "which appear surplus to requirements at this time".
Department permanent secretary Derek Baker said Killyleagh IPS was a sustainable school providing good quality education.
It was also meeting evident demand for integrated education in the area.
"However, its current admissions and enrolment numbers do not reflect reality and it makes sense to regularise these," he said.
"The proposal is sensible and pragmatic. It would bring admissions and enrolment numbers more into line with actual demand, whilst permitting some flexibility for future growth.
"It is not unreasonable to assume that the proposed School Enhancement Programme project at the school may help stimulate some growth in future."
The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) said while it was regrettable to lose any places in integrated schools, in the case of Killyleagh IPS, "there is a rationale for the reduction".
"The school has been awarded a School Enhancement Programme project as it has undersized classrooms and generally substandard accommodation," said senior development officer Lorna McAlpine.
"The reduction in the admissions number from 25 to 18 brings the enrolment number to 126, a five class base, which will allow some growth from the current enrolment.
"NICIE would predict that the school will grow when the SEP project is completed, as the school will have a very attractive offering to parents; a nursery unit, integrated education, and better accommodation."