Extra school places sought to cope with demand in Co Down
DOZENS of extra school places are being sought to cope with demand in one of the north's most under-pressure areas.
Separate proposals are being drawn up which would see two popular post-primary schools in north Down and Ards grow.
The population in Ards and North Down Borough Council is projected to keep rising until 2031.
Schools in the area received an unprecedented amount of applications in 2018 and were heavily over-subscribed again this year.
Additional places were made available in September to respond to a spike in the birth rate.
Seven schools in the north Down and Ards area received 151 extra places.
Now, two are attempting to be granted permanent increases.
Bangor Grammar School wants to boost its admissions number from 125 to 135, with an annual phased increase in overall enrolments from 850 to 900.
Strangford Integrated College plans to admit an extra 20 pupils a year - from 110 to 130. This would, in time, see the total number increase from 670 to 760.
It is hoped both proposals will be approved to allow extra pupils from September 2020.
At Strangford, the current enrolment has already exceeded its cap. In the 2019/20 school year it is 736, including 52 pupils with statements of educational need.
The school was granted approval for an increase from 500 to 670 previously.
A case for change document, published by the Education Authority, makes arguments in favour of approving the plan.
"The trend of over-subscription is evidence of the confidence of parents, in the college's catchment area, concerning its ability to meet the diverse needs of their children; the board of governors wishes to meet the needs of the young people whose parents want them to attend Strangford College," it says.
"In effect the board of governors wishes to meet parental demand regardless of religion, academic background or additional academic need.
"The increase in admission numbers to Year 8 will allow the school to operate class sizes at an optimum level. It will help the college to further improve curricular provision. It will enhance the opportunity for all students to complete a 7-year programme at the college."
There have been several development proposals approved already which has resulted in the increase in enrolment of some post-primary providers in the area.
Permission was given to St Columbanus' College in Bangor to increase from 500 to 750 while Priory Integrated College in Holywood was told it could expand, first from 450 to 500, and later to 600.