independent

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Children in tears over school places lottery

Maria pepper

Disappointed Wexford students have 'cried themselves to sleep' over losing out in the latest lottery for secondary school places in the town.

Second level schools allocated places for 2019 last week but many students, mostly 6th class boys who applied to the CBS and St. Peter's College, were left without any offers and must wait until after the second round of allocations on November 23 before learning if they have a school to go to next September.

'I've seen a change in children overnight. I've been told of children crying themselves to sleep last Wednesday night because they didn't get an offer', said Fianna Fail councillor Lisa McDonald who has described the system as unfair and is calling on the Minister for Education to increase secondary school capacity in the town.

Following the annual allocation of school places, 177 pupils have been left on a waiting list for St. Peter's College which has offered places to 132 students while the CBS received 230 applications for its 108 school places, leaving 122 on a waiting list.

The first year enrolment capacity of the newly-built Loreto is 150 while the Presentation school has allocated 144 first year places and Selskar College has an annual entry level enrolment of approximately 88 pupils with a 150-place capacity in Bridgetown Vocational College.

CBS principal Michael McMahon said the school received a number of calls from upset parents in the days after the co-ordinated allocations and he understood their disappointment and concern but the problem is bigger than the ability of any individual school to solve.

Five years ago, when plans for a just-completed new €10 million CBS secondary school were being drawn up, management argued for an increase in capacity to meet growing demand but it wasn't approved by the Department of Education which insists there are adequate second level school places in the Wexford town and District catchment area based on demographics.

'We have to offer places as per our admissions policy', 'said Mr. McMahon. 'I explained that at the open night. I don't have a magic wand to solve the problem.It would be great if everyone had their choices.' Cllr. McDonald said if the CBS had been allowed to build a bigger school, the problem would not be as acute. She said there is a current shortage of places for boys because more boys were born in 2005/2006.

'Some didn't get any offers and a lot got both', said Cllr. McDonald of the 'annual admissions chaos in Wexford town' which she said must be addressed through additional school capacity and a change in how places are offered.

St. Peter's College principal Robert O' Callaghan stressed that the allocation process has only begun and he asked parents and students to be patient. 'We have multiple rounds of offers. It's not finished until the first day of secondary school for incoming students at the end of August'.

Mr. O'Callaghan said the Department of Education's position is that it is providing sufficient places in the district. 'We are on the receiving end of the difficulty every year'.

Cllr. McDonald is joining with party colleague, Deputy James Browne and the Education Spokesperson to seek a meeting with the Minister for Education to discuss the ssue. 'The school-going population is continually growing, and plans must be put in place for more pupils over the next three to four years', she said, suggesting a new 'CAO-style allocation model' currently being used in Limerick whereby prospective first year pupils rank their school choices in the same way as Leaving Cert pupils make their college course choices.

'We need to remove the feeling of being in limbo for pupils and their parents. It is too unfair. It causes great concern and I believe it is totally unnecessary.'

Wexford People

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