Belfast Telegraph

Why should a teacher's child have better chance of a place at a school?

By Claire Harrison

It can be tough being the eldest child in a family for many reasons, but especially if you're trying to get a place in a school in Northern Ireland where priority is almost always given to pupils with a sibling already studying there. I can understand why schools strive to keep families together but as the parent of an only child starting primary one next year, I'm finding it extremely frustrating to see her position in the family as a reason to push her down the list of entry criteria for our closest school.

But what really gets my goat are the schools that also discriminate on the grounds of whether a parent works at the one you want to go to.

If you're the offspring of the principal, the caretaker or a dinner lady, even if you live 30 miles away, in many cases your chances of getting in will be significantly better than an eldest child living next door. Surely that's not fair?

Applications for next year's primary intake have to be made by next month and it is a bamboozling experience for those of us who are new to it and who live close to several oversubscribed schools.

Even in-demand schools put a lot of effort in to enticing parents to place them as first choice - not least in the list of entry criteria they set in the event of having too many applicants.

As part of the 'Open Night' season we're currently caught in (a tour of our local schools to hear other people's children sing Christmas carols) we were handed a booklet boasting the attributes of 18 primary schools in our area and the criteria they use to pick prospective pupils.

It became a quite riveting read as I developed a mild obsession with the sometimes barmy and often unjust reasons to offer one child a place over another.

Of the 18 schools, as expected 15 list having a sibling already there as their number one criteria. But astoundingly, 11 of the 18 give preference to the children of their staff or Board of Governors over any eldest or only child wanting to go there.

One school (stand up Millennium Integrated near Saintfield) even lists being the child of a member of staff as its absolute number one priority if oversubscribed, ensuring their own kids get in the door before any other child is considered.

Some of the schools have criteria which descend into the farcical use of a jumbled up alphabet and one warns it will resort to "drawing lots".

I find it odd that schools get to set their own criteria and that they can vary so wildly.

What I also object to is the appeals process which focuses on whether the criteria was applied properly, not whether it was complete nonsense in the first place. Shouldn't there be more uniformity?

I accept there has to be a way to sort applications but why should the children of staff be allowed priority over any other pupil? Sure, it's handy for a teacher taking the kids to work but the rest of us have to get on with running to several different locations every morning.

It's not using it as a criteria that I object to, it's the fact that so many schools have it too far up that list. Surely it shouldn't matter where your parents work, or if they work at all? It appears nepotism is alive and well in our school system and it's a harsh lesson for those disadvantaged to learn at such a young age.

I told you The Fall’s an arresting drama

I have a really annoying habit of skipping forward to read the end of a book if I can’t wait to find out what happens.

And so I couldn’t help myself when I accidentally came across the last five minutes of the penultimate episode of The Fall on RTE, which won’t be shown on BBC Northern Ireland until tonight.

I tried, and tried so hard to turn it off and not completely ruin the whole episode for myself, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from Jamie Dornan. 

No spoilers for you, but I will say it’s eventful!

Don’t let anyone burst my Buble

Michael Buble is one of the few men I have permission to leave my husband for (along with Rafael Nadal, though not at the same time).

So I hope my beloved is feeling a bit nervous as the Canadian crooner strolls into town for three nights at the Odyssey Arena. I’m hoping (but not promising) to try and contain myself when I see him in the flesh for the first time tomorrow night.

It doesn’t really matter that he is married to a stunning model with a beautiful baby son. 

He just hasn’t met me yet.

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