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‘My pupils aren’t interested in political wrangling... they just want to succeed’

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Integrated College Glengormley principal Rickey Massey

Integrated College Glengormley principal Rickey Massey

Integrated College Glengormley principal Rickey Massey

From this September Glengormley High will become Integrated College Glengormley.

It was a long process of transformation, but the final step was taken in March, just days before the end of the last Assembly.

Any further delay and the school would have been left in limbo, with no minister to make the final call. And principal Rickey Massey said it’s the absence of those critical decisions which need to be taken that will be felt most keenly the longer Stormont is in abeyance.

“What we heard is that decisions will be taken when there is a minister in post. For now there isn’t, and we don’t know how long this situation will last,” he said.

“It doesn’t help planning, it doesn’t help finances, it doesn’t help education in general, which as we’re well aware is in dire need of more finance.

“We worked for two years on transforming to integrated status. We waited a long time for the decision and that didn’t help us with rebranding.

“We couldn’t sell the school as integrated until a decision was made.

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“There will be other schools who have started the integrated process. They will have invested maybe two years of time and effort and are awaiting decisions, which can only be taken by an Education Minister.”

Another issue facing schools is industrial action by teachers in a dispute over pay.

“That has the potential to cripple schools and there’s anxiety over how much of a detrimental impact that will have on children,” said Mr Massey.

“The DUP have their issues with the protocol, but I have to see this from an education point of view and leave the politics aside.

“In their five-point plan for the election they made an issue out of supporting education. Indeed, all parties recognised the need for greater support, but they’re not there to make good their promises.

“When you take a look at the children who come into school every day, they only get one chance at their education.

“They are not bothered about political wrangling. They want the best possible opportunity to succeed, to get their qualifications, to go on and have the careers they desire.

“We’ve come through several very difficult years. We need some stability, yet what we have is more frustration. We have dealt with a sizeable level of change and it’s not been easy.

“Financially, schools are facing huge problems. On top of the deficits many are facing, we’re now being hit with massive rises in electricity and gas prices. We have to find that money somewhere and we need a functioning Assembly to help us find it.

“In the last couple of days we’ve seen how the number of children diagnosed with autism has risen dramatically. Last year we had 40 applications for this school requiring special educational needs. I simply don’t have the space or the finance to accommodate them.

“And while it is deeply frustrating for school leaders to manage the financial side of things, we also see the effect on families.

“We deal with parents daily. Many of them are genuinely struggling and cannot afford to send their children to school. They can’t afford the uniform, can’t afford the bus fares. The level of need in the community is shocking.”


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