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O’Dowd comments on media reports concerning wearing of poppy at local school

11 November, 2011 - by John O'Dowd

Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has spoken of his deep concern at media coverage in recent days concerning the wearing of poppies at a local school.

Reports earlier in the week had claimed that pupils at Dundonald High School had felt compelled to remove poppies following comments made by a teacher.

Commenting on the coverage, Mr O’Dowd said: “Earlier this week, a local media organisation devoted extensive coverage to claims that pupils at this school had removed poppies following comments from one teacher. This was despite the fact that the claims had not been backed up.

“Later the same day, the school completed a thorough internal investigation which concluded that there was no evidence found to substantiate the claim.“Unfortunately, however, the damage had been done. Poor journalism had thrust individuals, and a wider school community, into the limelight on the back of a baseless story.

“As Education Minister, my top priority is the pupils and staff in our local schools. These are learning environments where children in their formative years are taught and guided by teachers of the utmost integrity. Complaints, such as the one which arose earlier this week, should be dealt with by teachers who are professionals in their field and best placed to deal with such issues. Dragging a school community through a political debate on the airwaves is no way to handle such a sensitive issue.

“We must never forget that at the heart of this are children. I am very concerned at the impact this coverage has had on Dundonald High School and its teachers and pupils who are left, when the media move on, to pick up the pieces.

“I would ask and expect that in future media organisations, and those wishing to comment on such matters, would reflect with maturity before chasing quick headlines.

“The impact on our pupils and staff is my top priority – and I would expect others with influence across our community to feel the same.”

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