Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Blameless pupils suffer in Hazelwood row

It should go without saying that the only purpose of a school is to provide the human and material resources with which to educate children.

Yet for the past week almost 200 pupils at Hazelwood Integrated College have been denied access to adequate resources because of a row involving the school and Belfast Education and Library Board which should never have reached this ludicrous position.

Due to increased pupil numbers the school erected an 18-room classroom unit but this was padlocked by the board on the eve of the new term.

The board cited health and safety grounds. Presumably this facility was not built overnight, so why was it left until the last moment to raise objections? What are the health and safety considerations? Are they sufficiently serious to merit closure of the unit and forcing the children to study in a makeshift classroom instead?

The row had degenerated to the point where legal action is pending on Monday morning, although there are signs that a compromise may be reached on Monday too, following meetings.

Of course this is giving a very poor example to the pupils. They must wonder how people charged with delivering their education – from the minister down – can let things deteriorate to the point when their education is being compromised, albeit for a short time.

There is no way that observers on the outside of this row can determine where the rights and wrongs lie, but there is no doubt that blameless pupils and families are being affected, seemingly without due cause. There is an ironic twist to this row. Usually pupils are glad of any reason to take time off school, but in this case they are the most vociferous in demanding to be let into proper classrooms with proper resources.

The fact that more and more pupils are clamouring to gain admission to the school is a sure sign that parents recognise the quality of teaching delivered there.

This unseemly row must be resolved as quickly as possible to ensure that all pupils get the education they obviously desire.

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