Ulster Unionist Party education spokesperson Danny Kinahan MP MLA has expressed his surprise at the perceived difference in the way two County Armagh secondary schools have been treated in their applications to increase first form enrolments, to cope with increased parental demand.
Mr Kinahan said:
“Markethill High School and St Paul’s High School Bessbrook, faced with parental demand for places in their first form (Year 8), both recently applied for what is known as a temporary variation in their admissions numbers.
“Markethill’s application to the Department of Education was turned down, whilst St Paul’s was successful. However, according to answers to Assembly questions, St Paul’s was originally turned down by the Department on 14 May, only for that decision to be overturned by the Minister on 28 May.
“Minister O’Dowd needs to explain why he reviewed and reversed the St Paul’s refusal decision but not Markethill High School. Growing concerns about inequality deserve to be addressed. The Minister must assure the public that any decision he takes is taken on purely and exclusively educational grounds, based on tested policy.”
Attached Assembly Q&As from Danny Kinahan MP MLA:
Subject: Written Answer AQW 46643/11-15 - Markethill High School
Q: To ask the Minister of Education when Markethill High School applied for a temporary variation in their enrolment figures; and when a decision was made.
A: Markethill High School submitted a request to the Department of Education on 7 April 2015 for a temporary variation to its Year 8 admission number for September 2015. The application for seven additional places was not approved and the school was advised of the decision in the Department’s letter of 27 April.
Written Answer AQW 46642/11-15 - St Paul’s High School
Q: To ask the Minister of Education when St Paul’s High School applied for a temporary variation in their enrolment figures; and when a decision was made.
A: St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook submitted a request to the Department of Education on 8 May 2015 for a temporary variation to its Year 8 admission number for September 2015 to permit the admission of an additional 24 pupils. The application was not approved and the school was advised of the decision on 14 May. On reviewing the decision I decided, on 27 May, that the request should be approved and the school was informed on 28 May.