Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Review into way P7 kids told which school they will attend

The day Primary 7 pupils receive their post-primary placement letters is to be reviewed following concerns from school principals and parents.

Almost 21,000 children yesterday learned what post-primary school they will be going to in September.

However, the Department of Education has been criticised for moving the issuing of the letters from a Saturday to a Tuesday.

Problems reported yesterday included:

e Children arriving at school having received their letters, but others turning up not knowing what post-primary they will be going to as their mail had not arrived before they left for school.

e Parents keeping children off school to await the news.

e Pupils unable to attend school as they were too upset after not securing their preferred choice.

e Parents forced to take a day’s leave to deal with the aftermath.

Education Minister John O’Dowd said: “It is only very recently that concerns have been brought to the attention of my officials, who will now liaise with their counterparts in the boards to review the impact of this change and consider what further adjustments may be necessary.”

The changes had been implemented to avoid a repeat of problems last year when a significant number of parents received placement letters late while others could not contact education and library board officials over the bank holiday weekend.

Education committee chairman Mervyn Storey said: “You would have thought the minister would have undertaken a review before making a very reactionary decision. They could have got round it by issuing the letters the week before or week after the bank holiday weekend, instead of changing the day.”

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) also believes Saturday is the better date.

Michael Newman, NAHT (NI) president, said: “It has been a bit hard for some of the children who did not get placed where they had expected. The Saturday allowed parents to spend time with their children and reflect on the placement before school on Monday.”

Background

Parents who are not happy with the post-primary school their child has been placed in have until 4pm on June 11 to appeal. It must lodged with the education and library board. An independent tribunal will decide on whether or not a school has correctly applied its admissions criteria. If an appeal tribunal finds a board of governors did not apply its criteria correctly, and that the child would have been admitted if it had, the tribunal will award that child a place at the school concerned.

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