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School application decisions must be made earlier

Your recent articles on those children left without a post-primary school place (News, May 28/June 1) highlight the acute distress which can be faced by families left in this position.

However, that stress is greatly exacerbated in Northern Ireland by the fact that the Education Authority leaves it very late in the school year to inform families whether or not their Year 8 application has been successful.

Families are left with just five weeks prior to the end of the school year to scramble around and to try to find a suitable school for their child.

That means making hasty arrangements to visit schools and feeling under considerable pressure to make a decision very quickly before schools close for the summer.

This situation is not helped when families in this situation are not proactively offered support and assistance with choosing a school. I have seen at first-hand how incredibly stressful this situation can be, having witnessed a parent coming close to having a nervous breakdown over the short timespan in which she had to make a decision and the initial lack of any proactive support from her local education board - even when she requested it.

In England families are told the outcome of their secondary school application at the start of March, even in areas with selective schools.

We would urge the Department of Education to either shorten or bring forward the period during which applications are processed and admission decisions made, so families without a place for their child have sufficient time to make a calm and well-informed decision.

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ParentsOutLoud NI