Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: School row needs brought to a head

Kathleen Gormley has an impressive CV as a head teacher who gets results.

She transformed St Cecilia's College in Londonderry into one of the province's top performing all ability schools and she is now hoping to bring her skills to bear on Hazelwood Integrated College in north Belfast. But it seems that her strict no-nonsense approach to school discipline is not finding favour with all parents and unflattering comments have been posted on a social networking site.

Ms Gormley is right when she says that a new head with new ideas will always ruffle feathers, but it is clear from past performances that Hazelwood has plenty of room for improvement academically. No one wants a return to the bad old days of widespread corporal punishment in schools, but teaching pupils discipline and enforcing school rules rigidly are important lessons for the children's development. It is a formula - among other things - that the principal feels is for the long-term benefit of the pupils and she certainly deserves the opportunity to test her theories.

While some parents may have concerns - and may feel that those concerns are justified - surely the best approach for them is to meet the principal face-to-face as suggested by the education authorities. In that way a rational debate on the changes and any grievances can take place. The use of social networking sites may be useful for garnering support, but the danger is that language and allegations spin out of control and the situation then becomes very difficult to repair.

All responsible parents will want the best for their children. Of course, they will also want them to be taught in an environment that is welcoming as well as instructive. Creating a chilly atmosphere in the classroom is in no one's interest, least of all the pupils.

This current row should be defused as soon as possible and the school allowed to settle down into its new regime without an acrimonious background of furious comments on Facebook.

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