31/10/2007

Non-Resident Pupils Row Gathers Pace

The NI Assembly Education Minister is under increasing pressure over schools allocating places to children from another jurisdiction. The Assembly has heard that there were 455 pupils attending schools in Northern Ireland last year who were not residents of the province.

According to figures released by the Department of Education, the majority of non-domiciled pupils attending schools in Northern Ireland were in the Western Education and Library Board.

The Department of Education released the figures in response to an Assembly question tabled by the DUP’s Iris Robinson, who asked for information on the number of children resident in the Republic of Ireland but enrolled in schools in Northern Ireland in 2006-07.

In response, Education Minister Sinn Fein's Caitriona Ruane - who sends her children to a school in Northern Ireland from her home address in the Republic - said that the information on the specific country of residence of pupils enrolled at schools in the Province is not collected.

Responding to the figures, Mrs Robinson said: "The numbers of children involved are very high, particularly in the Western Board area.

"Some in the post-primary category will be boarders from overseas, but this is unlikely to be the case with primary school children. The fact that the figures are higher for areas close to the border would indicate that it is students from the Irish Republic who are involved primarily.

"These figures, of course, will not include those from the Irish Republic who are using false or spurious addresses within Northern Ireland in order to obtain places at particular schools for their children.

“As a party we are not opposed to practical co-operation with the Irish Republic, where it is in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland.

"However, it appears that some people are seeking to take advantage of our system. The welfare of the Northern Ireland taxpayer must be our prime concern."

(BMcC)

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