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Extra places for Bangor Academy and Strangford College

Extra school places are to be made available at both Bangor Academy and Strangford Integrated College, it has been confirmed.

The Department of Education (DoE) has approved temporary variations applications for 40 additional places at Bangor Academy and 19 additional places at Strangord Integrated College.

Bangor Academy had received 387 applications for 242 places in its September 2018 first form class, and estimated more than 40 local pupils missed out.

Strangford MLA Peter Weir was part of a DUP delegation which met with the Department last week to discuss the problems facing parents and children in the area who had not been offered a place at a single school of their choice.

He said:  "This will greatly ease the pressures in the North Down and Strangford areas, and come as a great relief to many families who have been left with much worry and disappointment.

“The Department has operated within policy but shown they were willing to listen to our concerns, and to show flexibility and common sense in implementing policy and arriving at this policy.

DUP MLA Peter Weir at his offices in Newtownards

He added: "Due to the complex way that school places are allocated this will still take some time to fully roll out, and some parents may still be left with problems.

"Along with colleagues I will work with parents until we have everything resolved, and there need to be further work done, possibly involving other local schools, but nevertheless this is a tremendous and positive step forward which will go a long way to resolution.”

Last week the Education Authority said that when the post primary admissions process concluded on May 18, 22,371 (98.62%) children had been placed, while 1.38% remained unplaced, adding that it is working with families and schools to resolve the issue.

A spokesperson for the DoE said: “Bangor Academy wrote to the Department on 24 May to request a Temporary Variation (TV) to increase the school’s admissions number to accommodate an additional 40 named children.  The Department has considered the request and approved additional places for all 40 children.

 “Previous requests from the school, made during the transfer process, had been turned down in line with policy.  The most recent request was approved given the unique circumstances that have become apparent since the close of the process. 

"In light of the scale of oversubscription this year in the area and the uncertainty that may have been caused for children, families and education providers in the area had the request not been approved, the Department has decided that it was appropriate to approve the most recent request.  The school has been informed and will contact the families directly.”

The spokesman added: “Following a Temporary Variation request from Strangford Integrated College, the Department has approved 19 additional places.”

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