Belfast Telegraph

Parents take school places protest to the education HQ

By Linda Stewart

Angry parents gathered outside the Department of Education headquarters in Bangor yesterday to convey their frustration over the failure to allocate post-primary school places to their children.

More than 50 parents protested outside Rathgael House after learning their children had been left without a school place after the conclusion of the admissions process.

Around 300 P7 children were still left without a confirmed place at a post primary school last Friday. The parents said their children were convinced no-one wanted them.

A total of 22,371 (98.62%) children were given school places, but 1.38% were not. The next stage of the admissions process is under way and the Education Authority has published a list of schools across Northern Ireland at which places remain.

One of the protesters was Bangor mother Lynsey Johnston, whose son Cameron did not get a place at any of his choices of Strangford College, Priory College or St Columbanus' College.

She said: "We want these children to have somewhere to go. My son asked me 'why does nobody want me'? Every day he asks 'do I have a school to go to'? This is why we are standing outside this building today."

As the parents protested, a number of DUP politicians were meeting with the department.

DUP MLA Peter Weir said later: "At the meeting, we vigorously conveyed both our own concerns and those of local families. The department has received a further temporary variations application, which whilst not fully solving the problem, would at least greatly ease pressures. While we appreciate the constraints of departmental policy, the department has an even greater duty to meet the needs of parents and children."

The Department of Education said: "It is important parents continue to engage with the Education Authority and identify additional preferences.

"The number of unplaced children has dropped and will continue to as parents submit additional preferences. We appreciate the uncertainty and disappointment for those impacted and want to reassure pupils and parents that at the end of this process all children will have access to a school place."

Belfast Telegraph

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