An angry Co Londonderry father has hit out after it emerged his son could be travelling 90 miles a day to and from school by taxi next week if the family takes up an offer by the local education board.
Terry McIvar and his wife Fidelma from Garvagh explained that their son Jack (11), who is ready to start secondary school, had been left unsure of his future after being turned down for admission by his three preferred schools — Loreto College in Coleraine, St Patrick’s in Maghera and St Paul’s in Kilrea.
“The alternatives we were offered included Larne which is 45 miles away, Ballycastle which is 32 miles and Portglenone which is 18 miles,” said Mr McIvar.
“The North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB) has offered to taxi him to Larne which is a 90-mile round trip, but we want him closer to home — not having to travel halfway across Northern Ireland away from family and friends for his education.
“It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.
“Time is running out. The new school term starts next Tuesday and we don’t know where we stand.”
Jack’s 11-plus grade from St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s Primary School in Garvagh wasn’t high enough for him to attend Loreto, although the family had hoped he was make it on the ‘siblings’ clause, as his two sisters and brother made it to the prestigious college.
Karen (19) has moved on to Queen’s University where she is studying pharmacy, Sarah (18) is doing her A-levels next year and James (16) is entering the GCSE stage.
“Jack gained a grade D,” said his father. “But his grandad died recently and that really upset and affected him during the test.”
In the case of St Patrick, Maghera, said Mr McIvar, his son was turned down on the ‘no siblings here’ rule “and he was too young to make it to St Paul’s, Kilrea”.
“We appealed the St Patrick’s ruling, but it was rejected and now we’re taking the fight to the Department of Education in Bangor,” said Mr McIvar. “It’s our last hope, and we’ll tell them about all the money they’ll save by not having to put a taxi on the road to Larne. The school bus to Coleraine stops a few yards from our home.”
A spokesman for the NEELB said they could not comment on individuals cases and the transfer officer was not available to make a comment. A statement from the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) said: “We cannot comment on individual cases. Schools have admissions criteria that are applied when a school is over-subscribed.
“The admissions number is set by the Department of Education and the board of governors must apply criteria to select the relevant number for admission.”