Belfast Telegraph

Alternative to Belfast schools merger 'not considered'

By Alan Erwin

Education authorities treated a potential alternative to closing an east Belfast school with "disdain", the High Court has heard.

A judge was told the possibility of Avoniel Primary School being amalgamated with nearby Elmgrove Primary was never properly considered.

Barrister Peter Coll QC said: "It was the solution that dare not speak its name."

He made the claim during a legal challenge by an Avoniel pupil to Education Minister John O'Dowd's decision to approve its closure.

With the school currently set to shut at the end of this month, lawyers for the child want the court to overturn his decision.

Mr O'Dowd announced the closure in May as part of a rationalisation process which will see increased admissions and enrolment at Elmgrove.

At the time he said the proposals were the first phase in plans to reshape controlled primary provision in east Belfast.

The judicial review challenge was brought on behalf of one child at the school with special educational needs.

Lawyers representing the pupil, who cannot be identified, claimed that the minister's decision should be quashed because a prior consultation process by the Belfast Education and Library Board was allegedly not properly or fairly conducted.

It was stressed in court that Avoniel has been performing well.

"This is not some sink school, the closure of which is inevitably going to save pupils therein from further bad education. This is a good school," Mr Coll insisted.

But Attorney General John Larkin QC, representing the Minister said: "This is an application characterised by needlessness and utter pointlessness.

"It cannot achieve any substantive advantage to the applicant."

The hearing continues.

Belfast Telegraph


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