Northern Ireland

Surge in appeals likely as secondary school places decided

All 11-plus-style exams for P7s were cancelled due to lengthy periods of disruption
All 11-plus-style exams for P7s were cancelled due to lengthy periods of disruption

THOUSANDS of children will today learn what secondary school they will attend from September - with officials bracing themselves for a record number of appeals.

This is the first year that grammar schools have had to decide which pupils to admit without being able to use entrance test scores.

All 11-plus-style exams for P7s were cancelled due to lengthy periods of disruption and learning from home.

Most schools are instead using non-academic criteria including free school meal entitlement, siblings and feeder primary schools.

With no tests, higher numbers are understood to have sought places in grammar schools, and there is expected to be a significant rise in appeals from pupils who lose out.

However, these appeals will only be upheld if a school fails to adhere to its published criteria - not if a parent simply thinks the criteria were unfair.

The aftermath is likely to cause the first major headache for the incoming Education Minister Michelle McIlveen.

It will also give those grammar schools planning to use non-selective criteria for a second year an idea of what to expect again in 2022.

A dozen schools - most of them in the Catholic sector - have said they will not run entrance tests for children currently in P6.

Parents who applied for a place for their child online will be able to log in to the Education Authority Post-Primary Application portal from 9am today receive the outcome.

Letters will be sent out to those who applied by post or email.

Family lawyers have been reminding parents of the grounds on which they may be able to appeal a decision.

"Following a particularly unsettling and frustrating academic year for children of transfer test age and their parents, it is more likely than ever that many families will not receive their school of choice," said Louise McNally of Belfast law firm Millar McCall Wylie.

"It is important for parents to remember they have the right to appeal a decision to an independent tribunal set up by the Education Authority, with grounds for appeal being based upon the post-primary school either not applying its admission criteria or not applying it correctly.

"We would remind parents who believe they may have grounds to appeal a post-primary decision to seek legal advice with urgency as the window for appeals is very limited."

The appeal process opens today and closes at 4pm on June 25.