Belfast Telegraph

School should stay open after its successful results, says Nesbitt

By Dave Whelan

PLANS to close a Castlereagh school should be halted following a week of successful exam results, the leader of the Ulster Unionists has said.

Mike Nesbitt said that a magnificent set of GCSE results at Dundonald High School should secure its future.

This year Dundonald High had twice the proportion of pupils achieving five or more grades of at least a C compared to last year.

Although the final decision on the school closure has not yet been made by Minister John O'Dowd, critical reports highlighting inadequate academic performance and an increasing number of unfilled places means that it is thought the school would be closed next summer.

However this year's results may be a "game changer" that should secure the future of the school according to Mr Nesbitt, who pledged his party's support for the school at this year's Ulster Unionist AGM.

"With 40% of pupils achieving five or more A* to C results, they have almost doubled last year's performance, confirming what the principal, Ken Perry, has been saying, that he has a plan to turn around the school's academic performance.

"I call again on the Education Minister, John O'Dowd, to recognise the school's leadership team have a plan, are delivering on those commitments, and deserve the time to continue to prove that they can transform the school at the heart of the Dundonald community," he said.

Mr Perry, head teacher since April and a former pupil said he was immensely proud of the improvement that led to scenes of joy when the results were given out.

"Children were delighted with their grades, parents were over the moon. I had mothers in tears because they were just so happy with their children's results," he said.

Mr Perry said there was an issue around the value placed on examinations by working-class Protestant boys.

"The attitude there was towards education in general needed to be addressed," he said.

"This school was a place that the local community thought would always be here and all of a sudden the threat to close it made people say 'we need to get on board and support that school'.

"The influx of support and hard work that has been coming from parents, community leaders, pupils and staff is tremendous."

There are currently six proposals being considered by the Department including the potential closure of Dundonald High School and Orangefield High School, the amalgamation of Knockbreda and Newtownbreda High Schools and the expansion of the Ashfield Boys and Girls Schools and Priory College.

A Department Spokesperson said that a final decision has not yet been taken following a public consultation on the Dundonald High proposal which ended on June 16.

"The key focus will be to ensure that any changes result in a network of viable and sustainable schools delivering high quality education which meets the needs of the pupils and has the confidence of parents."

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