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Hazzard asks Education Officials to reconsider Ardnabannon Closure

9 October, 2017 - by Chris Hazzard

Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard MP has called on the Education Authority to give serious consideration to halting the proposed reconfiguration of outdoor education provision in light of the controversial decision to close Ardnabannon Outdoor Education Centre. 

Speaking following several meetings today with outdoor education staff; service users; and senior Education Authority officials, the South Down MP said the proposals as they currently stand are counterproductive. 

Mr Hazzard said:

“I share the frustration of staff and service users that we will see statutory facilities close and increasing numbers of children pushed into the voluntary and private sectors. This situation has given rise to genuine fears that in years to come Education officials will have little or no control over such a fundamental part of the learning process.

“Moreover when you consider the huge push towards advancing shared education in recent years, it is madness to close the only statutory facility that is big enough to accommodate multi-school residential projects. The Education Authority should be investing to enhance such a facility, not disposing of it."

Mr Hazzard added:

“A recurring theme among staff members I have spoken to in recent months is a sense that their views were not adequately taken on board by decision makers; that the huge wealth of experience and knowledge among staff on the ground was ignored in these decisions.

“In light of this I am heartened that senior Education Authority officials today agreed to my proposal to meet with Ardnabannon staff in order to listen to their concerns amid growing calls for this controversial decision to be reversed. I would again reiterate that such an engagement should actively consider all alternative options available in order to save Ardnabannon Centre.

“Following these discussions today I will also now be requesting to meet with the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Education as we continue to build the case for Ardnabannon’s future.”

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