PARENTS are flooding Dungannon’s top schools with applications, making them amongst the most oversubscribed in Northern Ireland.
This year, Catholic maintained schools in the Dungannon District had to turn away 179 first year students as demand for places outstripped availability.
Most of the oversubscribed schools were in the grammar category although there were exceptions such as St Patrick’s College Dungannon which was oversubscribed by 24 applications and St Ciaran’s College, Ballygawley where there were 9 more applicants than places.
St Joseph’s Donaghmore is now one of the most highly sought after schools in the North, with 173 pupils battling for 95 places, closely followed by St Patrick’s Academy Dungannon, turned away 68 students.
The figures released by the Department of Education suggest that while political leaders are heavily promoting integrated and controlled sector education, a Catholic education is more popular then ever.
The scramble for a Catholic education in the town is in sharp contrast to the low levels of applicants for the town’s other schools. Integrated College Dungannon currently has 20 empty desks in their first year intake, while Drumglass High School has 34.
Popular controlled sector and grammars such as Dungannon’s Royal School and Fivemiletown College had to turn away 37 applicants.
Last year, it was revealed that across the local district one in five of last year’s P7 pupils missed out on the school of their choice. Six pupils were unable to gain entry to St Patrick’s College, forcing them to look to the Integrated College or Drumglass High School.
The Minister John O’Dowd said that the large number of empty desks was “diverting badly needed resources away” from educating children.