Clear criteria will avoid row over school closures
Published 07/10/2011 | 08:00
Any new Minister of Education inheriting control of a system which has 85,000 empty desks and a huge shortfall in funding would be remiss if he did not take immediate and positive action.
The obvious course of action is the closure of schools that are not economically viable, releasing much-needed funds.
One would, therefore, expect that the proposals for school closures should, in principle, accrue popular support. Parents and staff of a school selected for closure, while not necessarily welcoming the decision, can often be persuaded if the case is argued objectively on grounds of enrolment figures and economic viability.
However, the criteria currently outlined for the selection of the schools for closure are certain to generate controversy and friction.
In the first instance, such basic questions as "Are the criteria listed in order of priority?", "Are some criteria more important than others?" and "Do all the criteria need to be met?" need to be clarified.
More importantly, the criterion of "quality of educational experience, achievements and qualifications" is already proving divisive.
The main difficulty with the criteria is that they impugn the professional competence of the staff in the schools. The connotation of blame only serves to inflame emotions and creates an unnecessary level of invective (and possible litigation) into a situation which could be handled with transparent criteria - enrolment and economic viability.
Newry, Co Down