Parents asked not to 'panic' over hiccup with P1 applications

Barbara Boyd

Reporter:

Barbara Boyd

LOCAL principals have urged parents “not to panic” over applications for pre-school and primary school places in September.

The advice comes after the Education Authority (EA) website temporarily crashed last Wednesday (2 January) on the first day of the new online admissions process.

This is the first year of a shift from paper to web-based applications and the closing date for pre-school and P1 applications is midnight on Thursday, 31 January.

Parents rushed to apply for places on the first day of the admissions process which led to technical problems emerging that afternoon.

An EA spokesperson issued a statement to say the places are not allocated “on a first come, first served basis” and will not be considered until after the closing date.

The EA received around 7,000 applications on its new online system by mid-afternoon on the first day. An apology was issued by the EA for the technical problems which affected some parents.

On Thursday (3 January) the EA said they were still experiencing a high volume of activity and reminded parents they had until the end of January to apply.

Andrew Armstrong, principal of Dromara Primary School, was “not surprised” when the website temporarily crashed.

He said: “Principals had urged the EA to hold back on the online application process for a year in order to allow sufficient time for it to be tested to ensure that it was robust.

“We always felt that it was a little rushed. However, I know those at the EA who have been involved with taking this forward have worked very hard and I am sure that they will do all they can to get it sorted.”

Mr Armstrong said he would urge parents “not to panic nor to worry unduly” as the closing date is not until the end of January.

He continued: “There will be plenty of time to make an application. Call the EA helpline if you are still having difficulty registering. Ultimately this should be a good system for parents and schools when all the creases have been ironed out.”

Stephen Carlisle, principal of Iveagh Primary School, said the EA informed the Rathfriland-based primary school their digital admissions website received 21,000 applications in the first few days.

Mr Carlisle added: “It is unfortunate that their website has been unable to handle this high demand. However, the EA has told us that they are working to resolve the performance issues.

“In the meantime, if parents need any reassurance or assistance I will be more than happy to help. In addition, paper copies of the forms are available from our school office.”

Declan Mason, principal of St Paul’s Primary School, Cabra said he also had predicted the system might have some initial teething problems.

“Myself and some other local principals had feared the system might have issues as so many people would go on at once and apply for a place.

“I met with some prospective parents ahead of the system going live and advised them that they had a month to apply and to take their time with it.”

Mr Mason continued: “I think the new system is a very sensible approach going forward and for us as a school we will be able to see how many are applying for a place.

“However, for parents I do understand it can be quite a stressful time and I would say if any parents are having problems applying to ring their first-preference choice for help and advice.

“This year you can still apply in paper format, but ideally the preferred format is online. It just needs to be fine-tuned a wee bit more, which I think will come with time.”

Meanwhile, the EA has advised if parents need any help or encounter difficulties to contact the admissions help desk on 028 95 98 55 95.

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