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Enrolment increase approved as Education Minister and Deputy FM visit Markethill High

“The increase in pupil numbers will also lend further weight to the need to address the ageing infrastructure at the site and to progress with a new build for the school."

An increase in enrolment has been approved for Markethill High School.

And the announcement – by Education Minister Paul Givan – has been hailed as a “positive step forward” for the Co Armagh school, one of 21 in Northern Ireland to be given the nod.

Newry and Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin welcomed confirmation that Markethill High had been successful in the normalisation pilot process on school enrolments.

Mr Irwin attended a specially convened meeting along with his colleague Alderman Gareth Wilson at Markethill High School on Friday as Minister Givan announced the results of the normalisation pilot process which saw the school reach an official enrolment of 500 pupils.

The meeting at the school – attended by Minister Givan and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly – discussed the outcome of the pilot process along with the School Principal Mr Colin Berry and chair of the Board of Governors Trevor Lockhart.

Mr Irwin had been working closely with the new Education Minister and former MHS pupil and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly on the normalisation process for the school for some time and welcomed this important step forward.

He said: “This is very positive news and represents a very significant step forward and I thank Minister Givan for his assistance and for taking very seriously the representations of the school and my own representations on the issue of normalisation of numbers.

“This will make a great difference and will assist hugely in the admissions process each year and avoid the pressure often associated with Temporary Variations, as was always the case, to cope with the high demand for places.

“The increase in pupil numbers will also lend further weight to the need to address the ageing infrastructure at the site and to progress with a new build for the school.

“I raised the need for a new build with the Minister when he came in to office and he recognised that the capital development schemes are based on the official enrolment level for the school, even if they may be operating above that level.

“Each year my office is very busy with requests for assistance from parents of pupils that have just missed out on a place in the school and it is always an anxious wait to see if the Temporary Variation is approved to permit the additional enrolments. The alleviating of this pressure is so important and certainly is reflective of the level of need for places at the school.

“The school Principal and Board of Governors and have been very active and consistent on this issue and it has been a pleasure to assist in the lobbying process and I know that this will be well received within the community. Markethill High School continues to perform strongly and is a significant and highly valued community asset, I thank the Minister for coming down to Markethill and look forward to further engagement with him and as he visits the school again in May.”

Speaking during his visit to Markethill High, the Minister said: “I welcome the implementation of increases to enrolments at 21 schools across Northern Ireland as a result of today’s announcement.

“This will be a significant benefit to these school communities, who can now plan their curriculum and resources knowing the numbers of children and young people being admitted to their schools annually and without regular recourse to temporary requests.

“The pilot has been very important in responding promptly to local needs and is a key step in creating an accelerated and more dynamic approach to Area Planning.”

All schools that participated in the pilot process, planning and managing authorities, trustees and sectoral support bodies, will be advised of the outcome of the pilot process.

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