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Local post-primary schools to get extra places for expected increased demand in September

St Paul's High School Bessbrook

A number of local schools have been granted extra places to cope with an expected increase in demand this September.

The Department of Education has allowed schools in Newry, Bessbrook and Dungannon extra spaces this September.

The schools are among 25 post-primarys in Northern Ireland to be allocated the surplus spaces, according to the BBC.

In 2019, 226 pupils had failed to get a post-primary place when the initial transfer process concluded in June with concerns that could rise again this year.

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

St Paul’s Bessbrook will take 30 additional pupils into year 8 this September as well as in 2021.

In Newry, St Colman’s College will take 15 more pupils and Our Lady’s Grammar will admit 28 more in 2020 and 2021.

In Dungannon, St Patrick’s College will get 22 extra places in both 2020 and 2021 while St Patrick’s Academy will allow 15 more in each of those years.

Education Minister Peter Weir said: “I have moved to provide additional Year 8 places in areas where pressure is expected to be highest and have authorised an additional 443 places in 2020 and 361 places in 2021.

“My focus is on the welfare of children and to minimise stress on families at transition and I may authorise further increases during the admissions process if they are required,” he added.

Speaking on the issue recently, MLA Justin McNulty explained the difficult situation in south Armagh.

“The lack of post-primary school places across South Armagh is a real issue for many families,” he said.

“In recent years we have seen the school going population grow but the number of available post-primary places available in South Armagh hasn’t been increased at the same rate.

“South Armagh is unique in that parents have a choice between two excellent secondary schools in Bessbrook and Crossmaglen or a range of Grammar Schools in Newry.

“Where the problem arises is where the eldest child in a family opts to go to the Grammar School in Newry then the other children in the family can be disadvantaged in relation to seeking places at Bessbrook or Crossmaglen.

“Entrance criteria prioritises the eldest in the family or those with a sibling at the school over distance from the school and this can leave many families in real difficulty.”

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