NI School Application Process Overhauled To New Online System

A new online school admissions process for Northern Ireland has been launched, despite the Education Authority's (EA) system crashing when the scheme went live on Wednesday 02 January.

All parents or guardians of pupils due to start pre-school or primary school in 2019 are urged to apply for a place online, using the EA system between today and Thursday 31 January.

The process replaces the previous paper-based process, but the decisions regarding the selection of pupils remains in the hands of individual schools, in line with their published admissions criteria.

Alliance MLA for the Strangford constituency, Kellie Armstrong, received assurance that the online system's crash would not impact children entering education this September.

The MLA was contacted by a number of concerned parents who were trying to apply online for primary and pre-school places, but the site failed to work due to the high numbers of people logging on. Many parents expressed worry that their child could miss out, especially those applying for the limited number of pre-school places.

Mrs Armstrong confirmed: "Schools, particularly pre schools, are oversubscribed in my constituency. It is understandable parents want to submit their application as soon as possible, in the hope they can secure a place.
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"I contacted the Education Authority today and they confirmed, due to the high number of people trying to login, their system has not been able to cope. However I would like to reassure parents that admissions are not based on a 'first come first served' basis. Parents can apply online until midnight on 31st January 2019. If you cannot get into the admissions site today, try again tomorrow or later in the month.

"I will be asking the Education Authority to consider if its online capabilities are sufficient to deal with peak demands. I will also ask the EA to ensure better communications are in place to advise and support parents. Better planning would have ensured an online message was displayed asking people to try again later and would have reduced parents' concerns."

The EA's director of operations, Sara Long, said that parents should name at least four schools in order of preference, and reiterated that the process was not a "first come, first served" one.

"While most children obtain a place at one of their preferred settings, this cannot be guaranteed," Mrs Long added.

"Parents can list as many pre-schools or schools as they wish, but, by listing at least four, the likelihood of not being offered a place at the close of the procedure is decreased."

Parents will receive an email from the EA to confirm that their application has been received.

Decisions will not be announced until Friday 10 May, with some schools likely to be oversubscribed in areas with an increasing demand for places.

The process for older children applying for post-primary schools remains unchanged in 2019, but it is likely to move to an online-only system in 2020.


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