8,000 people oppose the changes to top grammar school... including Bob the Builder and Harry Potter
More than 8,000 people have rejected plans to transform Cambridge House from a 100% selective grammar into a bi-lateral school, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
However, doubts have been cast over many of the responses to the post-primary area planning exercise after the North Eastern Education and Library Board revealed it had received "numerous" replies signed in the names of fictional and cartoon characters such as Bob the Builder and Harry Potter.
Supporters of Cambridge House Grammar believe controlled grammar school places in Ballymena should be protected as 130 places have been lost since 2006.
They also argue that parental choice across all sectors should be ensured and free grammar school provision should be maintained.
The board of governors has made a case for the retention of 100% selection at the 900-pupil school.
One parent said: "You cannot change the status of a school after the parents have trusted you with their child."
While another argued: "Grammar schools that are free give the less fortunate a chance to experience and grow in a grammar school environment."
However, the NEELB which yesterday published consultation reports on the post-primary area planning exercise, has revealed that while it received thousands of responses, many were bogus.
According to the board:
* There were significantly more responses indicating they had been completed by school governors than the actual number of existing governors. Only a small number of these 'governor' returns were signed with names identifiable as current governors.
* A number of the responses indicating they had been completed by members of the teaching staff were signed with names that do not match those of the teachers.
* There was a significantly larger number of responses claiming they were from non-teaching staff than the actual number of staff employed.
* There were numerous responses indicating that they had been completed by parents which were signed using the names of fictional and cartoon characters, such as the popular children's TV character Bob the Builder and the schoolboy wizard Harry Potter featured in J K Rowling's books.
* Many of the responses 'signed' as parental responses were in batches of 10-20 sheets on which the signatures appear to be written in the same handwriting.
Following the public consultation, NEELB last month took a decision to proceed with the closure of Ballee Community High.
However, it delayed making a decision on Cambridge House Grammar pending further discussions.