Row over spike in pupil numbers in Northern Ireland

Written by: Simon Doyle | Published:

​Education chiefs are rejecting claims they were caught by surprise by a massive spike in the number of pupils seeking secondary school places in Northern Ireland.

Almost 1,300 more pupils are transferring from P7 to post-primary schools this year compared to last across the North. Close to 24,000 have been informed about the schools they will attend in September. Less than one per cent were left unplaced initially, but many popular schools were heavily oversubscribed.

The Education Authority (EA) and Department of Education (DE) have been under fire from disappointed parents, who accused them of not creating enough extra places. They say the authorities would have had access to enrolment numbers, which predicted the spike this year.

The EA and DE say they have been working closely over recent months to monitor the admissions process and identify areas of demographic pressure. To date, this has resulted in more than 1,000 additional places being made available for September.

Close to 70 schools were given a boost after the application deadline and 20 more applied for temporary variations to increase their numbers after letters to children were sent out. Extra school places are already being considered for next year as demand is set to intensify.

NASUWT’s national official for Northern Ireland Justin McCamphill said: “This situation ... demonstrates that area-planning needs a cross-sectoral approach to address the elephant in the room – academic selection. This is directing the way parents of children apply for schools.”


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