A local parent has contacted concerning the allocation of school placements in Newry or rather the lack of them. 

St Paul’s is in the spotlight at the moment but our reader is adamant that more than St. Paul's are affected with a lot of children that have passed transfer test not being offered grammar school places while some placements are not their choices.

We would be interested in seeing what local parents think of the situation.

Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady released a statement following the extra allocation by Education Minister John O’Dowd who granted a temporary variation to St. Paul’s High School allowing for the admission of extra students into the school for Year 8. The MP said “Following the lengthy application process for applying to Post- Primary schools our offices and councillors were inundated with calls from parents who were deeply upset that their children had not received a place in St Paul’s, a school with an excellent reputation.

“Along with my colleagues Megan Fearon MLA and Conor Murphy we met with the Minister and representatives of his department to explain the extenuating circumstances in St Paul’s and to put the case forward for admission numbers to the school to be increased.

“I’m delighted to be able to report that Minister O’Dowd has now granted the school a temporary variation in admissions numbers allowing for an extra 24 places in Year 8.

“This means the school will now be able to accommodate all applications that met the conditions laid out in sub-categories A(2) and A(3). 

“I want to extend my congratulations to St. Paul’s and to all its new pupils. In many ways St Paul’s has been a victim of its own success in this regard; it now has such an exemplary reputation that parents are understandably keen for their children to go there, leading to it being over-subscribed every year. This is clearly a ringing endorsement of non-selective education and the wonderful community service offered by this school.”

Following the St Paul’s admissions MLA Danny Kennedy called for the Minister of Education to demonstrate consistency in allowing variations in school enrolments following decisions made by Minister O’Dowd to refuse an application for an increase in Year 8 enrolment at Markethill High School, whilst approving a similar request at St Paul’s High School in nearby Bessbrook.

 Speaking in an Assembly debate on Area Based Planning for schools, Danny Kennedy MLA said  “Markethill High School in my constituency recently applied to his Department for a temporary variation of some 7 places, only to be refused. This is a school in mid Armagh which enjoys a deservedly high reputation in terms of its educational quality and is popular with parents. It serves a growing, mostly Unionist population in the mid Armagh area.

 “Obviously the School, its leaders and Board of Governors were disappointed by the outcome of their application. But that has been compounded by the decision taken last week by the Minister to grant a temporary variation of some 24 places to St Paul’s High School.

 “I want to absolutely make clear that I am not objecting to the granting of the temporary variation to St Paul’s which is also in my constituency and is also providing an excellent education to the pupils who attend there and, again, is popular with parents.

 “What I do seek to highlight, and what the Minister needs to urgently explain, is the difference in outcomes reached in his decisions. These are two successful non selective schools within a few miles of each other – both serving their local communities very well, yet Markethill High School has been denied its request.

 “The Minister should also know that the situation has been further compounded by the very unhelpful comments made by his Party colleague Mickey Brady MP MLA who in welcoming the St Paul’s decision said “this is a perfect example of team Sinn Fein delivering on the ground”. Such comments are quite disgraceful in themselves, but they give rise to the very deep suspicion by people and parents in my community who feel that there is more than a whiff of Party politics being played out here – and deeply sectarian and offensive politics too.

 “The Minister needs to address this issue urgently and he will know that I have requested an urgent meeting with him and other representatives to thoroughly discuss this matter. I also hope that the new Chair of the Education committee will investigate.”

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