Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

End of Hazelwood Integrated College crisis in sight

Sixteen-year-old pupils Mark Buick (left) and Peter Houston make their point at the locked gates yesterday

A bitter row which has left 200 pupils locked out of their classrooms for a week could be resolved by Monday, it can be revealed.

A meeting between Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB), Hazelwood Integrated College and the Department of Education brought the first signs of a breakthrough yesterday.

Pupils have been locked out of an 18-room mobile classroom unit at the north Belfast school for a week, after the education board padlocked the facility shut on Monday evening, hours before pupils returned to school.

In a joint statement – issued by Belfast Education and Library Board – the board, department and school said they had agreed several "actions with the aim of bringing about a speedy conclusion to the accommodation issues".

Yesterday, the north Belfast school said staff are "hopeful and optimistic" that a meeting on Monday afternoon will deliver a resolution to the dispute.

"The mobiles being opened is the only resolution acceptable to the school," said Bronagh McLaughlin, marketing and enterprise manager at Hazelwood College. "Pupils will be at the school on Monday."

The stalemate is now the subject of legal proceedings.

KRW Law (formerly known as Kevin Winters Solicitors) has filed papers seeking leave for a judicial review on behalf of a fourth-year pupil at the school. The application will heard at the High Court on Monday morning.

In a statement yesterday evening, the law firm said: "We act on behalf of a mother, whose son is a fourth-year pupil at Hazelwood Integrated College.

"He has been denied access to school facilities following a decision by BELB to lock up mobile units designed to accommodate increases in student numbers.

"The decision has had a negative impact on the education needs of the applicant's child and a detrimental impact generally on all children at the school."

The law firm said a letter from solicitors acting for the education board, received on Friday morning, has left "no alternative but to proceed to court".

"The board refute the assertion that there is any breach of the Education Order, the Human Rights Act and the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) guaranteeing the right to education," KRW Law's statement added. The education board has cited outstanding health and safety matters and the need for departmental approval before issues over the lease of the land on which the mobile classrooms are located, and it owns, can be resolved. The school has pointed out that planning permission and building approval for the site were secured.

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