Belfast Telegraph

Anguish of dyslexic pupil Hannah (11) who missed out on five school places

Devastated: Newtownards pupil Hannah Bole and her mum Suzanne
Devastated: Newtownards pupil Hannah Bole and her mum Suzanne
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

A heartbroken Northern Ireland pupil has spoken of her devastation at losing out on a school place.

Last month, hundreds of children in Co Down were left without a secondary school to go to in September due to a shortage of places.

Newtownards girl Hannah Bole, who is dyslexic, was one of 313 pupils to be told she did not get a place at any of her five preferred schools. She penned an open letter to education chiefs which she read out on BBC NI's Stephen Nolan show.

The 11-year-old wrote of how her emotions were "unbearable" on the day she realised she had missed out, despite working hard on her transfer test, but that she would stay strong for as long as she had to.

"Just think of how many children's lives you've messed with," she wrote.

"To put any 11-year-old through this is awful - would you put your child through this?" she asked. "I am not just a name on a list, I am human and I have feelings too."

Hannah has been offered places at two other schools but her mother Suzanne said they just were not suitable and is now considering, as a last resort, expensive private schooling or even tuition at home.

"The night before the letter we were talking about how it was the end of the journey and we were all so happy," Ms Bole said.

"And then she opened the letter... and that cold hard language, 'we regret to inform you...' It was devastating.

"It is so difficult to try and explain to a child that it is not their fault. It is the system, an educational lottery. To me it just sends out the wrong message. You tour the schools to see what they are like, the children work hard and then there is no reward. It makes a mockery of parental choice.

"This could have been handled so much better - we have just been left to our own devices."

In response to the public outcry, the Department of Education allowed some of the schools to increase their pupil numbers.

Ms Bole is still regularly in contact with the schools they nominated to see if there has been a change in Hannah's position on the waiting list. At one school she is 120th in the list, while at another she is 18th.

"She wants to be excited for the future, but that is being denied. It would be nice to have it resolved before the end of the (current school) year. All she wants is a uniform, PE kit and a locker," said Ms Bole.

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