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Education Minister O'Dowd urged to act over padlocked Hazelwood classrooms row

By Anna Maguire

HUNDREDS of people have signed a petition calling on the Education Minister John O'Dowd to open a school unit padlocked by an education board.

A dispute between Belfast Education and Library Board and Hazelwood Integrated College exploded in public on Tuesday – the first day back for pupils of the north Belfast school.

Pupils found the new £150,000, 18-classroom unit padlocked by the Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB), which owns the land where they are located.

BELB claimed the structure does not meet health and safety regulations. However, Belfast City Council's building control department wrote to the board yesterday to confirm that the structure has building control approval.

The school principal, Kathleen Gormley, has now been notified that staff have a two-hour 'window' this afternoon to remove all resources and units, including 1,000 boxes of material from the mobile units.

They are located on vacant ground adjacent to the school. They were intended to accommodate sixth form and alternative education centres, a careers suite and maths and IT rooms.

However, BELB insists it told the school that the classrooms would not be suitable for use by the beginning of the new school year, because acquisition of the proposed lease had to be compliant with BELB and the Department of Education.

Around 700 pupils and parents have signed the petition calling for the Education Minister to intervene in the stalemate.

Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn, who sits on the Assembly's education committee, said he has also written to the board calling for action.

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