Northern Ireland news

Co Derry schools seeking hundreds of extra places

A SHARP rise in the population of a Co Derry town is driving demand for hundreds of extra school places.

Four of five post-primary schools in Magherafelt have more pupils than officially permitted, with many more children being turned away every year.

Between 2007 and 2017 the population of Mid Ulster Local Government District increased by 15,339 people or 11.7 per cent.

This is significantly above the Northern Ireland figure of 6.2 per cent.

Close to 4,000 children are spread across the town's schools, and two are now seeking to increase the number they can admit.

Sperrin Integrated College has published a proposal asking that its long-term enrolment be increased from 500 to 620 within five years.

A separate bid by Rainey Endowed School details plans to increase the numbers in each year from 100 to 120. This would see overall enrolments rise in time from 700 to 840.

In its case for change document, supporting the expansion plan, the governors of Sperrin said the current admissions number of 80 pupils per year "does not meet the demand for post-primary integrated school places in the Mid Ulster area".

"The college has become the school of choice for many parents and pupils in the new Mid Ulster Council area, Randalstown and beyond," the governors said.

"The need for growth has been recognised by the board of governors as they are aware of the upward trend in children seeking places in Year 8, the oversubscription, temporary variation applications and approvals, and the school actual enrolment number which now exceeds 500."

Sperrin is one of two integrated schools that uses academic selection in the form of 11-plus style exams. It operates both grammar and all-ability pathways.

Any increase in its size, it was claimed, was "unlikely to have a major impact on other post-primary schools".

In its own case for change submission, Rainey also said that due to the size and nature of its catchment area and intake, "any potential impact of increasing admissions by 20 at Year 8, will be spread across 11 different schools".

"This mean the impact for any one school is likely to be very small.

"If the proposal is approved, it will be an important step as we, Rainey Endowed School board of governors, continue our founder's vision for "a school of all faiths and none" as we aspire to make the best even better," governors said.

Decisions on both proposals are expected to be taken early next year following a period of public consultation.

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