Two County Down mothers are threatening to keep their four-year-old daughters out of school until a row over primary places is resolved.
Emma Frost and Senga Coulter had been hoping their little girls Lily and Hannah would be accepted at Dromore Central Primary School.
But the mums were told that neither Dromore — nor the school of second choice, Donaghcloney — could offer their children primary one places. Instead, the girls were accepted at Waringstown Primary, which is seven or eight miles from their homes.
In protest at the decision, Mrs Frost kept her daughter Lily off school on Tuesday, the day she was supposed to start. She is due back at Waringstown next Monday, but Mrs Frost said she is considering keeping her at home.
Hannah Coulter, meanwhile, is due to start Waringstown tomorrow, but her parents are also considering keeping her out of school.
Mrs Frost said: “We wanted Lily to go to Dromore Central Primary and then we put down Donaghcloney as our second choice, but we were turned down for both schools and accepted by Waringstown instead.
“I work in Carryduff, which would mean me having to go completely out of my way in the morning to drop Lily off and then again, later in the day, to pick her up.”
Mrs Coulter said her daughter Hannah had also been turned down on the grounds that both Dromore and Donaghcloney were over-subscribed. Hannah is due in tomorrow, but I’m going to leave it to the last minute to make a decision,” she said.
And she said that both she and Mrs Frost were annoyed because they had been told Dromore Primary School had the physical capacity to take the children, after two other children had turned down places.
She said: “It’s not like we are asking the Department of Education to make room for our daughters, the space is already there.”
Local MLA and UUP Education spokesman Basil McCrea said it was a case of “bureaucracy gone mad”.
A spokesman from the Department of Education said: “Under both the existing and new admissions arrangements, no child can be guaranteed a place at any particular school, and the application of schools’ admissions criteria (whether academic or non-academic) inevitably results in some families not being able to send their children to their school of choice.”