October 26 deadline to have your say on Catholic school overhaul
CATHOLIC secondary schools in the Dungannon District are facing the biggest overhaul in more than half a century after the Education Minister announced that dozens of schools across the North should merge or shut down.
A new model of education, which could deal a hammer blow to grammar education, has been planned for St Patrick’s Academy, St. Patrick’s High School, St Joseph’s Donaghmore and St Joseph’s Coalisland. The other secondary schools in the district will remain unchanged.
According to the plans, St Patrick’s Academy and St Patrick’s High School will share an educational campus, while St Joseph’s Donaghmore and St Joseph’s Coalisland will enter a formal partnership to secure the viability and sustainability of 11-19 education.
The consultation process for the plans will run for four months until October.
The timing of the announcement has been criticised now that all the schools are closed and many parents are on holiday.
When schools return at the end of August, principals, boards of governors, parents and pupils will have little time to consult before the October 26 deadline.
The five education boards and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools made public on Thursday the plans they have been working on for months.
Crippling budget cuts and decreasing pupil numbers mean action must be taken to reduce the number of schools across the district.
The plans have been published following viability audits which red-flagged schools providing substandard education, had too few pupils and were draining the public purse.
SDLP Councillor for the Coalisland and Donaghmore areas, Jim Cavanagh, warned that the mass re-organisation recommended in the report will present huge challenges.
“Although there is no threat of school closure in the greater Dungannon area, the recommendations are somewhat vague in places and raise many questions”, said the retired headmaster.
“Recommendations 3 and 4 suggest retention of 11-19 co-ed provision in both Coalisland and Donaghmore, with a feasibility study to look at what is termed a formal partnership’ between the two schools.
“This suggests a sharing of resources between the two campuses several miles apart, and raises many questions as to how that can be successfully facilitated.
“The sooner uncertainty about the future is removed the better for children, parents and all concerned.
“The deadline does not seem reasonable considering the huge amount of sensitive and honest consultation required with all interested parties.
“At the end of the day it will seem to many that the current radical proposal will be overshadowed by the continuing deadlock over the question of transfer from primary school.”
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Weather for Dungannon
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 9 C
Wind Speed: 22 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 5 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: North