Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

O'Dowd wrong to force schools' amalgamation

Amongst his recent east Belfast secondary school announcements, Education Minister John O'Dowd states that Newtownbreda High School in south east Belfast and Knockbreda High School in south Belfast are to amalgamate on September 1, 2014.

Remarkably, most people are not aware of the outworkings of such an amalgamation. The reality is that, as well as spelling the closure of Knockbreda HS, it will mark the demise of one of east Belfast's best known, most popular and most successful secondary schools – Newtownbreda High School.

This amalgamation flies in the face of the results of Mr O'Dowd's own consultative process, for the said proposal was overwhelmingly rejected by Newtownbreda High School parents, staff and the board of governors at a well-attended school meeting last year.

Indeed, there is overwhelming local educational evidence stating that such amalgamations, with all the upset and readjustment that inevitably follow them, do not bode well for pupil wellbeing and future results.

A 'forced' unpopular amalgamation like this will mean that all evidence of Newtownbreda High School's existence will disappear. School logo, history, name, ethos, uniform, will go, at the end of June.

Successful staff from NHS, who worked hard over decades to maintain the school's good standing, will now have to re-interview, against KHS staff, for their own jobs! The present NHS school staff management team, who for years maintained good discipline and kept the school debt free, will also disappear after two years.

This decision by Mr O'Dowd is quite beyond my understanding. Such a rushed, 'split site', ill thought-out proposal, simply makes no sense, but then I'm only a former teacher of 30 years standing.

T J McClean

Belfast

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