MORE BANGOR kids will get into their dream schools next year after the government finally let two primaries take in extra pupils.
Towerview and Rathmore primary schools have been given the go-ahead to boost the number of children they can admit, starting with next September’s P1 crowd.
That’s sure to be a weight off the minds of parents in northeast and west Bangor, as it means many more of them are at last able to get their kids into the school of their dreams.
From next September Towerview’s annual P1 enrolment will be bumped from 46 pupils to 58, and its total enrolment to 334.
After that the school will continue to increase its enrolment by 12 pupils per year up to a maximum of 406 by September 2021.
Meanwhile Rathmore will go from 79 P1s to 87, while its total enrolment will be 560. Rathmore’s enrolment will also go up year on year after that, rising by eight pupils at a time up to a maximum of 609 by September 2021.
The pupil limit boosts are an early Christmas present for the school – but also for local parents, who have been crying out for enrolment increases in both schools for years.
Both schools regularly had to turn children away, and infamously in Towerview’s case there were times when four year olds couldn’t get a place there despite living on the same street as the school.
And that exposed a severe shortage of school places in parts of Bangor – yet education bosses said that Towerview couldn’t increase its admissions quota because some schools miles away on the other side of town had empty desks.
But those bosses have at last heard the anguished cries of local parents who couldn’t get a place at any of their local schools.
As Education Minister John O’Dowd said last week, it ‘is clear from the evidence that the demand exists to accommodate the expansion at both Rathmore and Towerview’.
“I wish everyone connected with the two schools the very best as they implement the enrolment increases and cater for even more local children,” the minister added.
Rathmore’s principal Julie Hardy told the Spectator that everyone in the school is ‘absolutely delighted’ by the pupil number boost, explaining that Rathmore is currently ‘full to capacity’ and can’t enrol any more kids despite parents’ demand for it.
And she added that without the boost Bangor West would have been facing an entire class of P1 kids unable to get a school place.
“My governors and I have been trying to ‘right size’ Rathmore for the past six years,” she said, that right size being 21 classes across all seven years.
“We have two P7 classes leaving in June 2015, but without this increase we would only have been allowed to enrol two P1 classes next September instead of our usual three – causing a shortfall of 30 P1 places.
“We are especially thrilled that the announcement was made on our P1 enrolment day as I was able to share the fantastic news with prospective parents and reassure them that Rathmore will be able to enrol up to 90 P1 children for September 2016.
“This year started with our excellent Inspection Report and has finished with approval for increased enrolment, so 2014 really has been an outstanding year for our Rathmore family - the credit for which lies with our dedicated and skilled staff, exceptional children, supportive parents and persistent governors.”
Welcoming the enrolment boost, Towerview’s principal Alan Brown said, “These are exciting times for the school community as we continue to put Towerview at the forefront of education in North Down. I am delighted that more local pupils will be able to access our high quality education.”