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Strandtown Primary School'S admission crisis ends as minister ups intake

By Rebecca Black

A potential crisis at a primary school that faced having to turn children away for the first time has been averted after it was allowed to increase its pupil numbers.

Strandtown Primary School in east Belfast operates on a unique system, taking in children from three local feeder schools from P4 onwards.

In recent years Strandtown has been able to accommodate the larger numbers coming through, but the number of children currently in P3 at the three feeder schools will surpass its total permitted enrolment next year.

The school mainly takes in children from Dundela, Greenwood and Belmont infant schools.

The Department of Education allows Strandtown to admit up to 241 children into P4 every September, while its total permitted enrolment is 963 children.

Next September will be the first time there could be more applicants for P4 than the school is allowed to admit.

There are currently 250 children in P3 at the three feeder schools - meaning up to nine could have been be left without places.

The situation has been resolved for one year after Education Minister John O'Dowd announced that he was allowing a "temporary variance" in admission numbers to cover the extra nine children.

Parents were informed of the decision yesterday by letter.

More than 200 attended a meeting in the school in December to express their worry about the situation.

Alliance MLA Judith Cochrane - who is on the board of governors for Strandtown - welcomed the move but stressed a permanent solution needed to be found.

There are currently nine classes in the P4 and P5 years, and eight classes in the P6 and P7 years.

"I am very pleased that we have found a solution for pupils currently in Primary 3," Ms Cochrane said.

"Parents of these children should have received a letter saying that their child would be given a place in Strandtown in September. We now need to focus on securing a permanent solution for the years ahead."

Ms Cochrane thanked Mr O'Dowd for approving the extra numbers, adding: "The infant-junior model is unique in Northern Ireland and therefore needs an individual approach to ensure the continuation of this excellent educational provision in east Belfast."

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