Northern Ireland

All-girls grammar school changes admissions criteria following legal advice

Victoria College in south Belfast
Victoria College in south Belfast

AN all-girls grammar school has changed its admissions criteria following advice from lawyers.

Victoria College Belfast will give higher priority to children entitled to free school meals.

It follows a similar change made by Belfast Royal Academy in recent days.

Grammar entrance tests were cancelled this year, forcing schools to devise alternative criteria.

Amid warnings from lawyers, most abandoned efforts to use different forms of academic selection in lieu of transfer tests.

Victoria had initially planned to give priority to pupils enrolled in its prep department.

However, it has now received Department of Education approval to change its criteria.

Children seeking a place will still need to have entered the transfer test.

Priority will then be given to a proportion of pupils entitled to FSM. They will be taken from the group who selected the school as their first choice.

The school will then consider applications from its prep department.

"Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the board of governors of Victoria College took the decision not to use academic criteria as part of the admissions process to Victoria College Belfast for Year 8 pupils in 2021," said Wendy Blundell, chair of the board of governors.

"In light of this decision, the board of governors published its admissions criteria for use in the current year which reflected the college's desire to maintain its tolerant, diverse and inclusive school community.

"Following detailed advice received recently from senior counsel, the board of governors has received approval from the Department for Education to amend its published admissions criteria. The college has accordingly revised its admissions criteria."