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Letters gaffe left Northern Ireland pupils in limbo over what school they'll attend

By Rebecca Black

The Education Authority (EA) has apologised after children waiting to find out which school they will attend in September did not receive letters.

Tens of thousands of P7 pupils and their parents were eagerly awaiting letters from Friday to Saturday to find out if they had gained a place at their college of choice.

However, for 30 families the agony was prolonged when their letters did not arrive.

The letters were re-sent by recorded delivery and were due to arrive yesterday.

An EA spokesman said that its officers are currently investigating the cause of the delay.

"On Friday 19 May, as part of the post-primary admissions process, schools issued letters to parents to confirm Year Eight places for over 21,000 pupils for September 2017," the EA said in a statement.

"EA issued letters to the parents of 120 pupils who were unplaced, providing further information on the next stage of the process.

"These letters were also issued on 19 May for delivery to parents on Saturday 20 May.

"Unfortunately, a number of these letters were not delivered as planned. Duplicate letters have been sent by recorded delivery to be received on Tuesday 23 May."

The EA told the Belfast Telegraph that it had not heard anything to suggest the letters had not been received on the second attempt, adding that 30 letters were re-sent.

The body, which delivers education services across Northern Ireland, has also apologised to the parents who could not contact a helpline to get information about the process.

"The EA helpline received a high volume of calls on Saturday," it explained.

"We apologise to anyone who was not able to get through."

One parent, Michael Holden - whose son attends Killinchy Primary School - told the BBC his family were left "in limbo" all weekend after they did not receive a letter on Saturday.

He claimed that between himself and his wife they made about 300 attempts to get through on the emergency hotline.

Mr Holden said it was "constantly engaged".

"When we eventually did get through, it said the mailbox was full and simply disconnected the line," he said. "No principal in our area was given the result either, so the primary schools weren't given the information so they weren't able to assist any parent."

The Co Down man said that he and his family cannot understand why the system is not made simpler.

"The whole thing is just absolutely shocking.

"In the day of technology, why they can't offer alternatives, that we could log into a system and view the result," he said.

"It's ridiculous."

The EA, headed by its chief executive Gavin Boyd, became operational on April 1, 2015, replacing Northern Ireland's former five education and library boards.

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