School places crisis: ‘Tremendous step forward taken’ says former minister

Bangor Academy, a school where 'over 40 families' missed out on places. Image from google StreetView
Bangor Academy, a school where 'over 40 families' missed out on places. Image from google StreetView

Former education minister Peter Weir has said “tremendous step forward” has been taken to resolve a crisis in school placements that has left hundreds of children without a place at school.

The Education Authority revealed last week that “around 300” pupils had been left without a place at a school due to oversubscribed post-primary schools.

One of the worst affected areas, according to DUP MLA Peter Weir, was in and around north Down.

The principal of one school in that area, Bangor Academy, had said his school had received an “unprecedented” number of applications to start in September.

In an open letter to parents, Mr Matthew Pitts said “over 40 families from Bangor” had missed out on a place.

The school had two applications to increase enrolments, known as a ‘temporary variation’ turned down by the Department of Education.

However, Peter Weir has said a third application has now been successful.

The former education minister hailed the move as a “tremendous and positive step forward.”

He also said a further application for a temporary variation by Strangford Integrated College had also been approved.

“I strongly welcome the decisions of the Department of Education to approve the Temporary Variations applications for 40 additional places at Bangor Academy and 19 additional places at Strangford Integrated College,” Mr Weir 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.”

He continued: “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. 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.”

Mr Weir added: “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.”