A FERMANAGH family has been left ‘devastated’ by the selection criteria set out for post-primary transfer to Mount Lourdes Grammar School.
The family, who wish to remain anonymous, has not one, but two daughters with late spring birthdays who, because of the selection criteria dictated by the school’s board of governors, will miss out on a grammar school education.
According to the school’s website: “The Board of Governors of Mount Lourdes draws up the admissions criteria and delegates to a selection sub-committee, which includes the principal, the responsibility for applying these criteria.”
In the event of the number of applicants being greater than the admissions number for the school, the website states the method used to select girls, will be in the following list of order and priority: applicants who already have a sister attending the school, applicants who are the first girl in the family to transfer to secondary education and, applicants ranked by date of birth.
The transfer test has been cancelled for the second year in a row and the current P6 pupils will be admitted to local CCMS grammar schools on criteria chosen by the schools again next year.
The family fears that if this type of selection for grammar school continues when it comes to the time for their second daughter to transfer from primary to secondary school she will miss out on a place because she won’t meet the criteria on three counts – birth date, she is not the eldest daughter in her family and she won’t have an older sibling at the school.
“From where we’re standing we’re hearing ‘that’s just how it is’,” the girls’ parent told the Herald.
“That’s fine for them to say but, I would ask if the members of the board of governors have any daughters with late birthdays how they would feel if that was the criteria independently selected the year their daughter was due to start the school?”
Around 130 girls’ families applied for the 96 available places at the school this year, which is a considerable increase from previous years when girls would normally be expected to sit the transfer test to determine selection.
After the deadline for the conclusion of the transfer process passed on June, 18, the school’s waiting list policy kicked in but, with late birthdays, this still leaves little hope for the concerned family who contacted the Herald.
“It has been a disaster for families like ours,” the parent said, “We have written to the education minister, the department and we’re on the waiting list for the school but I have no expectations that any of them will directly address our situation. The message is clear: ‘Sorry, but no can do.’
“This is the lives and educational prospects of two sisters,” the parent added, “Our oldest daughter keeps herself to herself but, I know when September comes round she will feel it all. It’s hard to watch your daughter struggle with issues beyond her parents’ control.
“It would’ve been better – and fairer – if it was a complete lottery, all names in a hat type of thing because this way, girls are missing out just because of the timing of their birthday.”
Meanwhile, a Department of Education spokesperson said: “It is schools that hold the legal power and authority to set admissions criteria and not the Department. It is therefore for individual schools to advise on the reasons why a particular applicant was unsuccessful in securing admission during the transfer process.
“Parents with questions about the process for appealing a school’s decision not to admit their child, or who are seeking support in finding a school placement, can contact the EA’s dedicated helpdesk and more information is available on the EA’s website at https://www.eani.org.uk/ .”
Mount Lourdes was contacted for comment but at the time of going to Press no comment has been received.
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition