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Praise for move to increase enrolment at Belfast's Strandtown Primary

By Rebecca Black

Published 05/02/2016

Education Minister John O’Dowd with pupils Lauren Armstrong and Emma Craig during a visit to Strandtown Primary School in 2013
Education Minister John O’Dowd with pupils Lauren Armstrong and Emma Craig during a visit to Strandtown Primary School in 2013

A decision to increase enrolment at an east Belfast primary school that was plunged into crisis last year has been hailed as "common sense".

Strandtown Primary operates a unique system where it receives children from three feeder infant schools.

Starting at P4, Strandtown takes in children from Greenwood, Belmont and Dundela infant schools, which finish at P3.

However, last year nine children from the infant schools were almost left without a place due to higher numbers.

The school briefly considered using selection criteria - including proximity to the school - but it was allowed a temporary variance to accommodate all the pupils from the feeder schools.

Yesterday Education Minister John O'Dowd approved an increase to admission and enrolment numbers from 236/943 to 261/1044 for this September.

"The model of provision provided by Strandtown Primary School and its three feeder schools is a unique one," said Mr O'Dowd.

"Parents opting to enrol their children at the feeder schools do so in the expectation that they will have a seamless transition to Strandtown Primary School at Year 4. My decision today supports those expectations by increasing the capacity of Strandtown Primary School to admit pupils transferring from its three feeder schools."

The minister has also asked his officials to work closely with the Education Authority to review the effectiveness of this model of provision to minimise the risk of any future alignment issues occurring.

East Belfast Alliance MLA Judith Cochrane said she had been campaigning on this issue since 2012, and welcomed the move.

"I first raised this matter with the Belfast Education and Library Board in 2012 and have continued to advocate for a permanent solution," she said.

"I want to thank the Education Minister for approving this development proposal and finally removing the worry for parents.

"This was the common sense solution and I am delighted the hard work and perseverance has paid off.

"The infant-junior model is unique in Northern Ireland.

"This decision will ensure the continuation of this excellent educational provision in east Belfast."

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