Belfast Telegraph

Belfast school closing at 1pm on Wednesdays because of 'budget pressures'

By Claire Williamson

A Belfast secondary school is to close to pupils at 1pm every Wednesday due to "budget pressures".

In a letter to parents Breda Academy said it will be starting a "compressed day" from Wednesday December 6.

Principal Matthew Munro said it was an "essential response to the ongoing budgetary pressures and associated action short of strike action that constrain all Northern Ireland schools to a greater or lesser degree".

He said in the letter:  "As you may be aware, schools in Northern Ireland are experiencing considerable budgetary pressures.

"In addition the main teaching unions have continued and extended a programme of action short of strike action. This has had an impact on the arrangements that we can make for routine school activities, such as regular staff meetings and parents evenings.   

"We know other schools in the area have been exploring different ways to ensure essential staff development activities can still place, for example through having compressed days or half‐days or late starts for students in the morning. Staff and governors at Breda have been considering which of these options, or any alternatives, would work best here.

"I am writing to let you know that, starting on Wednesday 6th December, every Wednesday at Breda will be a compressed day."

The compressed day means lessons being shortened to 30 minutes and classes beginning at 8.35am instead of having a morning registration period.

All lessons scheduled for the day will take place and there will be a longer "big break" in the morning.

The school says this will mean the afternoon is available for "staff development and preparation activities".

Mr Munroe continued: "I appreciate this may represent an inconvenience for some parents and students but we have tried to select the

day in a way that makes it easier for parents to adapt any routines in a simple and consistent way.

"As I have said this is an essential response to the ongoing budgetary pressures and associated action short of strike action that

constrain all Northern Ireland schools to a greater or lesser degree.

"I would also like to stress these compressed days are not a half‐day and student attendance is required.  In our previous experience with this compressed day format, staff and students reported that the day felt very productive and focussed."

South Belfast DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly said she was in contact with a number of concerned parents and she had set up a series of meetings.

She said: "I have been contacted by a number of concerned parents- both in relation to the mid term nature of this change but also concerns over the reduction of teaching time for pupils.

"I am in contact with the department of Education, the EA and I will be raising this issue directly with the Principal on Friday morning at the arranged meetings."

On Wednesday evening an emergency meeting was called of the Ulster Teachers’ Union where the INTO and NEU agreed to redouble efforts to stop the cuts to the education system "before it’s too late".

General secretary of the UTU Avril Hall Callaghan said: “Cuts in the classroom have meant that the system has never before since the Education Act of 1947 faced the kinds of pressures it is facing today – and back then we had just come out of a World War.

“Something must be done before we go beyond the point of no return and it’s too late – a point which is getting perilously close.

 “We’re at a make or break point, make no mistake.”

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