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Almost all children get schools they want


31/12/2007 :: Northern Ireland :: Irish News

Almost every child is being admitted to his or her first-choice secondary school - casting doubt on fears of a 'postcode lottery' when the 11-plus goes.

There is such a lack of competition that only a small percentage of pupils are being turned away, even from prestigious grammars.

The number of empty desks has risen so much that children will seldom be left disappointed.

Critics of education minister Caitriona Ruane's decision to scrap the 11-plus next year say children will win places at the school closest to their home.

They argue that places at academically-biased schools will be swallowed up by children fortunate to live in the area.

However, experts are puzzled by such claims. They say nothing will change in the post-11-plus era - children can get into any school and will still be able to.

New figures show that most children are already guaranteed a place anywhere they want.

Pupil numbers have fallen so much that a staggering majority are being assured entrance to any school of their parents' choosing, however aspirational.

This year every one of the 200 first-preference applicants were admitted to Methodist College Belfast, a school that traditionally would only accept children with

A grades in their 11-plus.

Similarly, St Louis Grammar School in Ballymena, Co Antrim, admitted all but two of its first-preference applicants.

Parents are asked to complete a transfer form during their child's final year of primary education.

They nominate, in order of preference, the post-primary schools to which they would like their child to transfer. Normally at least three schools are nominated.

Grammars are most likely to be oversubscribed and it is possible that some children will be re-jected by the schools their parents choose but it is becoming in-creasingly common for first preferences to be met.

New statistics from the five education and library boards reveal that about nine in every 10 first-preference applications to post-primaries last year succeeded.

Southern board schools admitted 93 per cent of first preferences. In the western board 91 per cent of children won places at their first-choice school.

The figures for successful applicants to schools in the north-eastern, south-eastern and Belfast boards were 90, 87 and 86 per cent respectively.

Meanwhile, there is barely any competition for primary places. About 99 per cent of children get into the school of their parents' choice.

In Belfast 84 of the 88 primary schools admitted all of their first preferences.



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