Belfast Telegraph

Education chiefs: we did not block public meeting at school

By Claire O'Boyle

The Education Authority (EA) has been criticised for forcing a public budget meeting to be held off school grounds.

The event, scheduled to take place at Arvalee School in Omagh, Co Tyrone, on Thursday was moved due to concerns over public liability insurance of the building.

Sinn Fein MLA Declan McAleer said he was astounded at the EA's decision.

Paul McClenaghan, president of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) NI, said the unexpected change meant people who wanted to attend had missed the meeting.

He said: "EA's concerns came as a surprise to us.

"We have held public school budget meetings in schools across Northern Ireland without any issue.

"This meeting has been publicised for months and to force the public out of the school shortly before the meeting was due to take place was a great inconvenience and we can only apologise to members of the community who wanted to attend but could not due to the EA's actions."

Mr McClenaghan said the purpose of the meeting was to highlight the impact of education cuts on schools and children and to enable parents, politicians and the public "to have a frank discussion with school principals".

"In the absence of a functioning Assembly and with the education crisis deepening, meetings like this are vital," he added.

When it took place, the gathering heared further calls to hold the EA to account over school budgets.

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said the EA was failing children.

The EA said it received notification from NAHT on Tuesday afternoon about Thursday's public meeting.

"As set out in the Department of Education's guidance on community use of schools, premises can be used for a range of purposes such as public meetings provided the necessary steps have been taken to ensure the health and safety of the pupils and the public who are in attendance," it said.

"To protect the interests of the general public and the school, EA requested confirmation that the appropriate level of indemnification had been put in place in relation to public liability insurance. No response was received.

"EA was not aware that the meeting had not taken place in Arvalee School."

Belfast Telegraph

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