Belfast Telegraph

Pupil devastated after Northern Ireland college refuses to let her continue A-Levels

By Christine Carrigan

A mother has criticised a school after her daughter learned she had missed out on re-entry for her final year via a note stuffed inside an envelope containing her AS-level results.

Allia McGarry (17) narrowly failed to meet Portadown College's new criteria for entry into year 14. Her mother Samara Kelly said the conduct of the school had been "ridiculous".

The Department of Education said it does not support schools setting requirements for re-entry.

Samara, who teaches at Shimna Integrated College in Newcastle, Co Down, said her daughter saw the note telling her she had not secured re-entry even before she got to her actual AS-level results.

"On results day, my daughter was told she had lost her place on a note of paper inside her results envelope," she explained.

"This was the first thing that she read before her results.

"Standing in a hall with her friends, with other pupils celebrating around her, and then it being obvious which students hadn't got back in because everyone could see who got a letter - it is awful."

Allia got one A*, three As, four Bs and one C at GCSE and went on to study maths, biology and chemistry for A-level, obtaining two Cs in maths and biology and an E in chemistry at AS-level.

In previous years Portadown College required at least three Es at AS-level for their pupils to continue on to A2.

However, at the end of last term, parents were notified that the Board of Governors had raised these requirements to at least three Ds.

Ms Kelly added: "This is the first time that Allia has ever had a disappointing grade.

"But despite excellent grades at GCSE and good topic tests results throughout the year there was absolutely no discussion about her being able to return."

Allia said the experience had been a shock, adding: "It was really confusing for me."

Mrs Kelly said it had been a very stressful time for her daughter.

"She has been absolutely devastated," she added.

"This has been such a difficult and stressful time for my daughter, left with no school to go to with only a few days before term starts. 

"There is the added problem that exam boards do not let you transfer AS results between boards, so there was another school we had contacted but because her school had completed CCEA exams she couldn't use her results as they were WJEC."

Since then, Allia has been accepted at Lurgan College, which uses the same exam board as Portadown College, but she will have to retake both A-level years.

Portadown College principal Simon Harper said: "Portadown College, like many other schools, operates a policy with minimum requirements for progression from GCSE to AS and AS to A2.

"The policy was developed in consultation with stakeholders and approved by the Board of Governors."

A spokesperson for the Department of Education (DE) said: "DE does not comment on an individual case.

"DE is aware that some schools set requirements for re-entry into year 14.

"The Department does not support this practice and has reminded schools that in accepting pupils into year 13, they have accepted pupils onto two-year courses, and that the circumstances in which a pupil and a school agree that a course should be abandoned at the midpoint ought to be exceptional and ought to be set out before the course begins."

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