Children denied places at school on doorstep

Twelve children have been denied a place at St Francis Primary School Loughbrickland and are facing having to travel miles to be schooled.

There were more applications than places available at the school and a temporary application for an increase in numbers was refused giving Principal Mr Donal McNally a headache.

The school had asked for 13 additional places but only got one causing the school and parents to ask wonder why the places were turned down when other schools were given extra places. The Education Department said the reasoning behind this is that the children live within travelling distance of similar schools.

Talking about the problem the principal explained that after all those children with siblings already at the school had been admitted there was no more room.

He said that the 12 children not being admitted are 12 new families and that the school will lose about 15 younger siblings. Mr McNally pointed out that turning the children away will result in the subsequent loss of income estimated to be at least £25,000 in the first year and £100,000 in the first three years.

Many of the parents are shocked that their children have been refused especially as some of them can even see the school from their house. They feel it doesn’t make sense that young children will have to travel six miles to school and home each day when there is a school on their own doorstep. A stream of letters and meetings has failed to convince the department. 83 schools did get permission to go over their limit and the parents in this village feel the government’s claimed enthusiasm for local communities has been ignored in their case.

Some parents haven’t opted for another school and are considering simply turning up in September but the school wouldn’t get paid.

Councillor John Hanna has described the situation as a numbers game. “A level of flexibility is needed,” he said. “The system has become too authoritarian.”