Call to halt ‘headlong rush’ to close schools

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The Northern Ireland Executive should stall its “headlong rush” to close and merge schools, teachers say.

A total of 22 secondary schools across the North have been approved for closure or amalgamation since government backed a radical review of education.

Ministers began approving a raft of closures just two days after the Bain Review was accepted in 2006 –- despite claims its implementation would not cause major upheaval.

Bain recommended the minimum enrolment for post-primary schools in years 8 to 12 should be 500 pupils. In addition, the minimum enrolment for a 6th form is now 100 pupils.

Secondary schools in Garvagh, Castlederg, Larne, Derry and Belfast are among those to have shut their doors in the last few years. Some have been merged with grammar schools to become new all-abilities colleges.

Last month, three post-primary schools in east Belfast were the latest to be told they would either be shut down or brought together. The futures of dozens more are being considered as part of the massive area-based planning exercise.

Numerous secondary schools are expected to disappear and new models of education emerge. The pace of change, however, is too rapid for some.

At its annual northern conference in Enniskillen, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) urged school authorities to slow down the rate of closures.

INTO senior official Brendan Harron says there has been a massive increase in the number of announcements of plans for closures and mergers in the last 12 months.

Conference delegates called for more thorough consultation and for greater cognisance to be taken of the effect that school closures/mergers can have on local communities.

“Rural communities, in particular, are facing devastation, through the closure/merger of their local schools,” Mr Harron said.

“The INTO is finding it difficult to keep pace with the number of closures/mergers that are being announced, almost on a daily basis.”

  


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