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Pupils must be at heart of ambitious Downpatrick Schools Plan - Hazzard

16 March, 2018 - by Chris Hazzard

Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard MP has called on education authorities to consult extensively with parents, pupils, staff and the wider community to ensure the educational well-being of pupils is at the heart of ambitious plans to reorganise education in east Down. 

The South Down MP was commenting after the CCMS presented proposals this week to teachers, governors, and parents that would see the merger of De La Salle High School, St Mary's High School, St Patrick's Grammar School, all in Downpatrick; and St Columba's College, in Portaferry.

Mr Hazzard said:  

“The CCMS, and the trustees of the De La Salle congregation in Downpatrick have long favoured the creation of a fully inclusive co-educational post primary college for local pupils, however the lack of concrete detail emerging this week is alarming. 

“Bearing in mind the ambition of such a proposal would include upwards of 1,600 pupils located within a new college it is vital that the school community are presented with as much information and detail as possible. 

“It is my understanding however that this has not been the case following these first consultation meetings. 

“Parents, staff, and school governors have been left with far more questions than answers; straightforward queries were often brushed aside; and the voice of pupils was entirely absent from this initial consultation process. 

“This is not acceptable. Education authorities must avoid an ad-hoc drip-feed of information that only serves to create confusion and frustration amongst families and staff.” 

Mr Hazzard added:

“These proposals represent an opportunity to build a truly inclusive, modern, and successful education system for local children in the east Down area. But for this to become a reality the education authorities must engage meaningfully and in a transparent manner. They must address the genuine fears and concerns of parents and staff

“But most importantly, they must remember that the pupils – both current and future – should be at the heart of all considerations.” 

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