The Ulster Unionist Party’s North Down MLA, Alan Chambers, has called on the Education Authority to take steps to ensure that all the remaining unplaced pupils who attended any of the Bangor feeder primary schools are accommodated in Bangor Academy.
Alan Chambers MLA said:
“I find it a shameful and unacceptable situation that some three weeks after a large number of parents and children received a letter informing them that there was not a post primary school place available for them in North Down, that a number of them still remain in limbo land. This despite a vigorous cross party political campaign to secure 40 extra places in Bangor Academy and 19 in Strangford College.
“There was an understanding that the extra places in Bangor Academy would accommodate all the unplaced pupils who attended any of the Bangor feeder primary schools. Unfortunately this has not proved to be the case and whilst it has proved difficult to get accurate figures of how many children are still without a post primary offer, a figure of fifteen has been circulating.
“It is disgraceful that children who failed to get a place in Bangor Academy due to having the wrong surname in a bizarre jumbled up alphabet tie breaker for places, have assumed that they must be failures when in reality it is the system that has failed them.
“When we have to deploy a lottery system to determine where a child is to be educated there is something very wrong. To complete the exercise of totally undermining the self-confidence of those children who missed out first time around, some then find that they haven't secured one of the forty lifeline extra places. This double whammy is bordering on child cruelty. Having fought for the forty extra places I fail to understand just what is going on.
“To inflict this anguish on families is an indictment on how we as a society do business. In this case it is the future education of our most valuable asset, our future generation, that we are messing about with.
“There is a magic wand solution to all this. A place should be created for all the children still without a placement in a school they would wish to attend. It may present logistical problems but none of those should be insurmountable.
“Children crying themselves to sleep, feeling a failure when classmates - just by virtue of a more favourable surname - have their post primary places secured, brings shame on everyone who has failed to act on the predictable spike this year in numbers seeking post primary places. This spike was flagged to the authorities over six years ago.
“One post primary headmaster used the phrase ‘exceptional circumstances require exceptional solutions’. If ever a situation was crying out for such a solution it is this ongoing horrendous failure inflicted on young children and their parents. I am calling on all those in the Education Authority to act now and end this mental torture by providing the exceptional solution that is both needed and importantly within their gift.”