Call for probe over ‘snub’ to Markethill HS

Danny Kennedy.
Danny Kennedy.

An Ulster Unionist MLA has called for an investigation into a Catholic school after it was allowed to increase its admissions while nearby Markethill High School was not.

Danny Kennedy reacted with outrage earlier this year when Markethill High’s request to be able to take in more children was turned down. He hit out when St Paul’s High Bessbrook was allowed to accept an extra 24 pupils in September.

Following an appeal tribunal, it emerged St Paul’s did not check addresses in seven cases. The appeal was taken by a child earlier this month who had failed to secure a place at the school.

The tribunal was “not satisfied that the school had discharged its duty to verify addresses correctly and consequently had not applied its admissions criteria correctly”.

Mr Kennedy said, “In June I raised my concerns at the difference in how Markethill High School was treated compared to St Paul’s, Bessbrook, in terms of their respective applications for additional Year Eight places, known as temporary variation requests.

“The relevant section in the Department of Education turned both requests down, but in the case of St Paul’s, the minister ordered the decision to be reversed, a decision hailed by SF MP Mickey Brady as an example of ‘team Sinn Féin delivering for people on the ground’. These concerns have been compounded by the findings of a tribunal on a Year Eight admission application for a prospective St Paul’s pupil. The report details a litany of incorrectly applied admissions criteria. Alarmingly, it details that the school has not applied its admissions criteria accurately.”

Mr Kennedy has called on Minister John O’Dowd to order an independent probe.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said, “The minister is awaiting an initial report from officials on this matter. He is very concerned at the scale of the numbers involved as a result of the school not administering its admission criteria correctly. He will assess the report and take whatever action he believes appropriate to ensure the failings are corrected and not repeated.”