School admissions policy

Guidance on the open enrolment policy, including parental preference and admissions criteria, along with information about limitations on school enrolments and access to the Department of Education's policy on post-primary transfer.

Open enrolment policy

Under the open enrolment arrangements, (the Education (NI) Order 1997 refers) there is a statutory requirement that all schools must admit pupils up to an approved admissions number and within an overall enrolment number. These numbers are determined by the Department in consultation with the Education Authority (EA), the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) as appropriate, and Boards of Governors of schools and are based on the physical capacity of the school.

Parental preference

Parents are able to express a preference for the schools they wish their child to attend. However, parental preference is not absolute but is constrained by the physical capacity of the school, because if popular schools were allowed to grow, there would be significant additional costs to meet their accommodation needs, and inefficiency through the reduction in numbers attending other schools with places available.

Admissions criteria

Schools must publish the admissions criteria which will be used to select pupils if there are more applicants than places. Parents whose children are unable to gain a place in the school of their choice can appeal to an independent appeal tribunal. That appeal can, however, only be on the basis that the school had not applied, or not correctly applied, the criteria which it used to select pupils.  Decisions of appeal tribunals are binding on all parties, ie the school, the EA and the Department.

Limitation on enrolments

The present policy is that enrolment and admission numbers will not be increased simply to cater for the number of pupils applying, ie popular schools are not allowed to expand if there are surplus places elsewhere. To do so would lead to a further significant increase in the size of the grammar school sector and some popular secondary schools. It would also involve additional capital expenditure at a time when there is ample accommodation available in the post primary sector generally. It would, therefore, be very difficult to regard this as a priority for limited capital resources. The only exception to this rule is where there is a clear shortage of school places within a sector in any given area.

Post-primary transfer guidance

The Department of Education's guidance on post-primary transfer is described in the following document.

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