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CBS victim of own success as education bosses move to increase enrolment to meet high demand

Approving increased enrolment would also add weight and highlight future needs for additional accommodation and an extension to CBS to cope with the growing numbers

Christian Brothers Primary School in Armagh

An Armagh City school has become a victim of its own success and has proven so popular that it is now seeking permission for an approved significant increase in enrolment.

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) made a formal request on behalf of the Trustees of the Christian Brothers’ Primary School in Armagh.

And now the Education Authority has launched a pre-publication consultation ahead of a formal development proposal which would, if approved, see the school able to fully accommodate pupils within permitted enrolments.

It already exceeds its annual numbers but this would make the situation a permanent fix and allow the school to meet demand.

And looking to the future it would also add weight and highlight needs for additional accommodation and an extension to CBS to cope with the numbers.

The increased pupil intake would add to provision in both the English and Irish medium sectors.

The permitted enrolment would go up by 77 on a phased basis – from 476 pupils to 553.

This would come about through an approved annual admissions increase from 68 to 79 – which would be made up of 40 in English-medium and 39 in Irish-medium.

The annual phased increase in enrolment number from 476 to 553, would “take effect from 1 September 2022, or as soon as possible thereafter”.

Christian Brothers’ Primary School and Nursery Unit is a maintained primary school under the trusteeship of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (NI). It boasts an Irish-medium unit, an Irish-medium nursery unit, a Key Stage 1 Autistic Spectrum Disorder Centre and a Key Stage 2 Learning Support Centre.

According to the ‘case for change’, the increase is necessary to meet demand for places.

It states: “Currently, the demand for the school means it is always over its approved enrolment number and consistently over its admissions number.

“The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools and the Board of Governors of the school have proposed to adjust the admissions and enrolment number to reflect current and projected demand for places.

“The current approved enrolment for the school is 476 (266 in English-medium (EM)/210 in Irish-medium (IM)) and admissions is 68 (38 in EM/30 in IM).

“The proposal is to increase the admissions number of the school from 68 to 79 and the enrolment number from 476 to 553 to meet with current demand.

“This means the approved enrolment for the school will be 553 (280 in EM/273 in IM) and the approved admissions will be 79 (40 in EM/39 in IM).

“Any change to the admissions and enrolment number will facilitate a review of the school’s accommodation requirements.”

CCMS officers have met representatives of the school to assess matters and identify any options that are available in the area, and the case for change document provides a summary.

Indeed, the document outlines future requirements in terms of additional accommodation to meet growing demands.

It states: “The current approved provision of Christian Brothers Primary School is a 17 class-base school. Due to enrolment pressures, the school is having to use 20 rooms for general classroom use. This is being facilitated by use of rooms originally designated as library and resource facilities, staff room and designated learning support classroom accommodation.

“The increase to a 20 class-base school will allow these areas be returned to their original usage and meet the pressures for accommodation brought about by the increased enrolment.

“It is anticipated that additional accommodation and adjustments will be required moving forward to meet the increasing enrolment trends.”

Following a desktop analysis – and with information from a previous site visit – an accommodation analysis would highlight a number of changes and additions to “ensure safeguarding, health and safety and educational needs are addressed”.

This would necessitate a five-classroom extension with storage and toilet provision, at an estimated cost of £600,000.

Additional playground space and car parking would also be necessary going forward.

In addition, the Education Authority School Meals Section would be expected to “provide comment on the existing canteen facilities ensuring an appropriate level and safe school meals service is being delivered”.

That, of course, is in terms of future provision to deal with growing demand.

But for now the pre-publication consultation – which will be followed by a development proposal – highlights the intention to approve a permanent permitted enrolment increase and that is what is going out to public consultation this week.

The closing date for comment on the PAC is June 16.

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