Belfast Telegraph

Class-room service as Hazelwood pupils face being taught in hotels

By Dave Whelan

Students at the heart of the public battle between Hazelwood Integrated College and Belfast Education Library Board (BELB) could remain locked out for a further two or three weeks after a High Court case was adjourned.

The case, taken by the mother of one of the pupils who has been locked out of the 14 new classrooms in north Belfast for over a week, was adjourned for two weeks by Mr Justice Treacy so he could gather further affadavits from the applicant and the school principal.

The row centres on the building of the new classrooms on land owned by BELB, adjacent to the college, without their permission.

On Monday, September 2, the education board padlocked the venue citing the need for Department of Education approval and health and liability issues.

As a result 199 sixth-form pupils were sent home by staff due to lack of space.

Since then a makeshift sixth form has been set up in the school's Assembly Hall. The vice-principal said he is at "breaking point" at having to relocate up to 50 teachers an hour to accommodate the school's 893 pupils.

The new classrooms were to house a centre for maths, ICT, religious studies and learning for life and work, with computers and other learning equipment.

The school was later given a two-hour window to retrieve necessary equipment.

On Monday, counsel acting for the pupil's mother lodged an application for an interim relief order to open the facility temporarily, until a lasting resolution can be found.

Mr Justice Treacy, however, rejected the application. A lawyer for the Year 11 pupil told the court that preventing access to the mobile classrooms was having a "detrimental impact" on the education of his client.

Malachi Maguire QC said: "Three weeks ... amounts to the loss of 12% from the school year.

"This denies our applicant the right to education. I believe this will harm the future career of this pupil and it is more damaging because he is starting his GCSEs."

Following a meeting between the BELB and senior staff at the school on Tuesday, the school is now to consider using local resources such as church halls and hotels.

Principal Kathleen Gormley has come under fire recently after it emerged she ignored advice from the BELB not to build on the fenced land and that a fence was cut to allow access to build an entrance to the site.

A petition signed by hundreds of people calling on Education Minister John O'Dowd to intervene has now been sent to the Department of Education.

North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds has called for an urgent resolution to the dispute.

"During the past week I have had several conversations regarding this matter, including with school principal Kathleen Gormley and the BELB Chief Executive Dr Clare Mangan.

"The current situation, in which access to educational resources is being denied and some pupils are having to go home early due to a shortage of classrooms, is clearly detrimental to their education.

"The focus must be on ending this negative impact. I remain available to assist in any manner."

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