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Protesters hit out at Belfast special schools merger plan

By Rebecca Black

Supporters of special schools, including pupils and teacher unions, gathered at Belfast City Hall yesterday afternoon to voice their anger at proposals to cut their numbers.

Speakers at the protest included People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll, who helped organise the demonstration.

Hannah Black (14), a pupil at Fleming Fulton School, also addressed the protest.

"I was born with spina bifida, basically my legs don't work, but my brain does and that's thanks to the hard work and dedication of my parents, doctors, teachers and workers at my school," she said.

"I have been going to Fleming Fulton since just before my third birthday, it is like my second home, I have made the best of friends that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

"If the Education Authority goes ahead with what it is planning, I will be separated from my friends and have to go to a different school, which I don't want to happen.

"I love my school the way it is and I don't want it to change."

Mr Carroll praised the turn out at City Hall despite short notice.

He warned that the campaign is "only getting started", adding that there are plans to stage another protest outside the Education Authority, vowing to "send them a message they can't ignore".

The Education Authority is considering proposals to close a number of special schools in Belfast to create three larger 'superschools' by 2020.

All of the new schools would be expected to admit pupils from ages 3-19 with a range of disabilities.

The proposals are due to go out to formal consultation later this year.

Belfast Telegraph

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