Belfast Telegraph

Popularity of grammar and integrated sectors is clear to see

BY LINDSAY FERGUS

Every parent should look at the area profiles the education boards have published online. They show how a school is faring on academic achievement, finances and enrolment.

If you combine it with other data such as recent school inspection reports (available on the deni.gov.uk website) and the area plans (available on the education boards' websites) it should give you a broader picture. But what the annual area profiles show is that there are more than 12,000 empty desks in our post-primary schools. In fact, they show more empty desks than that, but when you take into consideration the number of schools whose enrolment surpasses the total approved number, you get a more accurate picture of the actual number of empty desks.

But while there are schools with hundreds of vacancies, more empty desks than pupils and an enrolment below the 500 pupils deemed sustainable by the department, some empty desks are in schools with more than 1,000 pupils, or some schools have just one empty desk.

While the headline figure provides evidence for the Education Minister who wants to rationalise the schools, the future of every school should be looked at based on individual circumstances and the needs of the community.

What the annual area profiles do show is the popularity of the grammar sector, which caters for more than 40% of all post-primary pupils, and the integrated sector, which now caters for 7%.

Although there are empty desks in some grammar and integrated schools, collectively as a sector when you take the total enrolment away from the approved enrolment, technically there are no empty desks... something the boards need to take into consideration when it comes to planning.

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