‘Parents being kept in dark’ over schools merger

Many parents who took their Primary 7 girls to Coleraine High School on Saturday as part of the familiarisation process that prepares them for the induction examination, were in for a surprise, even shock, when they discovered that the previous year 8 intake of 120 has been slashed to about 75.

According to a civil service document, ‘the admission number for the new VGS - the amalgamation of Coleraine Academical Institution and Coleraine High School - is anticipated to be 150’ in September 2015.

The September 26 ministerial statement highlights the ‘increase to the enrolment at Coleraine College from 600 to 900 pupils’ but only gives the future VGS enrolment of 1060 pupils. There’s no mention of the drastic cut of 540 pupils from the current combined enrolment of 1,600 pupils; this looks more like the deliberate withholding of negative news than an oversight.

The statement asserts that ‘the intended location of the new school is the Coleraine Academical Institution site’ yet there’s no mention of a new build, not even a detailed plan for the transition which will ensure that staffing and classroom resources will be as least as good as those currently enjoyed by CHS pupils.

The commendation that ‘the North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB), the Trustees of Coleraine Academical Institution, the schools and all the stakeholders involved on the significant work, debate and discussion which led to an agreed area solution and the subsequent publication of these proposals’ is highly misleading; teachers and parents have largely been kept in the dark.

Those who have paid close attention to detail will know that the 414 submissions from Coleraine High School parents to NEELB were initially counted as one in the pre-consultation phase and later slipped in as 400 but with no other alteration to the analysis. This sleight of hand will also come as no surprise to those who observed the NEELB’s earlier hatchet job on the Causeway Memorial School Museum.

Why haven’t teachers, parents and some school governors been fully and regulaly briefed about what has been done in their name?

Where are the agendas, minutes and reports that the Office of the Information Commissioner expects to be made readily and easily available? The Board of Governors is obliged to ‘encourage - (a) the Principal to promote regular communication between assistant teachers and parents of pupils; and (b) the Principal to maintain regular communication and consultation with his assistant teachers on the management of the school’.

I’d be surprised if any folks from the Department of Education, from the NEELB and even from the Board of Governors turned up on Saturday to defend the decisions taken.

Perhaps some parents will now look elsewhere for the post-primary, even post-GCSE education of their children.

Nevin Taggart, Bushmills.