Pupils’ transfer dilemma as Secondaries oversubscribed

June 8, 2010

By Brónagh Murphy

Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane, has come under fire from parents whose children have been refused a place in their local secondary school, despite following her advice on transfer testing.

In a letter sent to The Examiner this week, an angry parent has accused Ms Ruane of  removing parental choice by encouraging parents not to allow their children to sit grammar entrance tests then leaving the pupils facing a dilemma when they are refused entry to their local secondary.  The parent added that one local Secondary school is in danger of becoming ‘elitist’ by the system it uses to accept pupils.

It appears that following the abolishment of the 11+, over-subscription to some Secondary schools has left them unable to offer places to children from traditional catchment areas even though, in some cases, older siblings are already attending the school.

SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley says the new transfer system for non-selective schools is ‘simply not working’ and has called for an urgent review.

Commenting on difficulties parents are experiencing with school admissions, Mr Bradley said: “In practice, Transfer 2010, which currently applies to non-selective schools only, is turning out to be a more insidious tool of transfer than the 11+ itself.  It runs counter to the Minister’s stated aims for it – of fairness and equality – and the situation will only get worse when grammar schools abandon testing.  Pupils who have not sat any tests are now being rejected by non-selective schools which generations of their families traditionally attended.  Schools which normally can cater for their own catchment area are finding that they are over-subscribed and have to turn away children from areas which are, and have traditionally been, part of their core catchment.

“There is evidence too, of convenience addresses being used to gain admission to schools.  This is leaving many pupils and parents disappointed and angry at having to resort to the appeals mechanism in an attempt to gain a place for their children whose siblings already attend the local school,” Mr Bradley added.

The MLA says his Newry office has been contacted in relation to an unprecedented number of appeals.