Northern Ireland

NI Education: 'Significant pressure' on post-primary school places

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The Department of Education (DE) is warning of pressure on post-primary school places in some areas in 2020.

That is because the number of pupils transferring from primary schools has risen by 10% in only four years.

As a result, the department is asking some principals to apply for extra year eight places on a temporary basis for 2020 and 2021.

In recent years, there has been a rise in the number of children who struggle to get a post-primary place.

In 2018, for example, 313 pupils were not placed when the initial transfer process concluded in June.

In 2019, 226 pupils were left without a place at the same stage.

In previous years, the numbers of unplaced pupils had been between 100 and 150, according to the department.

DE said that there was likely to be "significant pressure" on post-primary places in a number of named areas in 2020.

These are Belfast, Newtownards and North Down, Dungannon, South County Londonderry, Lagan Valley, Antrim town and Newry.

The number of pupils due to transfer in 2020 is 24,017, compared to 21,732 in 2017 - a rise of more than 10%.

Those figures do not include pupils with statements of special educational needs, who are placed through a different process.

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In 2019, DE gave 20 schools across Northern Ireland temporary extra places to cope with a rise in pupil numbers.

A number of schools in the Belfast area have already sought permanent increases in enrolments.

However, DE has said it will invite principals to apply for additional year eight places in 2020 and 2021 if they are in an area where there will be "significant oversubscription".

"Without proactive action, the evidence would suggest that an increasing number of children will fail to secure places during the admissions procedure and may have an extended wait to gain admission to a post-primary school," DE said.

"It could also lead to the position where large numbers of children are unable to access the sector of their preference."

Parents apply for post-primary places for their children in January 2020 and will find out which school their child has been given a place in on 30 May 2020.

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