Belfast Telegraph

Doug Beattie: Parents are right to be furious over this mistaken decision

UUP MLA Doug Beattie
UUP MLA Doug Beattie

By Doug Beattie

Every parent wants their child to do well at school. Some will be academically gifted, while others will not; yet each child should be given an opportunity to strive to better themselves and achieve all they can.

Recently, however, this does not seem to be the case at Craigavon Senior High School (CSHS) - a split campus school covering Portadown and Lurgan and the only two-year school in the whole of the UK.

It now seems that pupils have been unilaterally moved from GCSE maths after completing one year of the course to Level 1 Essential Skills Numeracy.

A decision taken, it would seem, without engagement with parents, who are rightly furious.

The hard work of the teachers needs to be recognised and extra maths should be driven forward at the school, allowing pupils to achieve a GCSE pass at C grade.

The school environment should always be a place for children to both learn and feel safe.

Sadly, this is not the case for the Lurgan Campus of CSHS, where an internal review by the Education Authority (EA) in December 2016 highlighted serious health, safety and wellbeing concerns for students.

Last month I met with the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma, along with a former chair of the Board of Governors (BoG) and a former principal from the area to highlight our concerns about the Lurgan Campus based on the 2016 review.

This review's finding were shocking and should rightly cause concerns for any parent who has allowed their child to be educated in this environment.

It should also send out a message to all politicians that we are failing children it is our duty to protect.

In the review, students said they felt self-conscious, stressed, vulnerable and frightened while conducting Physical Education (PE).

This was due to them being watched by adults from the Southern Regional College (SRC) who share the site, or when they had to walk across town in their PE kit to avail of facilities.

These facilities were open to the public, who could take pictures of the children at any time as they conducted PE.

The 'car park' doubled up as a 'recreational area' where children have to be supervised at all times.

This supervision extended to moving around the school, shared at times with adult students from the SRC, which felt, according to pupils and teachers, "intimidating" - to the extent that the report stated that this level of supervision was having "a negative impact on the wellbeing of students experiencing it".

It was clear that the commissioner had never seen this report.

Therefore the question must be asked - did the Minister for Education at the time have sight of this report?

If he did, why did he not take immediate action, given the report stated on numerous occasions "that in relation to personal safety of pupils this campus is not fit for purpose"?

I, as a public representative, cannot sit back and allow this situation to persist.

Did the Department for Education know about this situation, does the Permanent Secretary know or indeed, did the Minister at the time know?

I asked the Permanent Secretary.

His answer was they did not know and it falls to the EA to deal with issues like this.

So, the BoG and the EA kept the report secret from the Education Minister and his department, denying it any oversight function.

It is clear education in Northern Ireland is suffering from a lack of political strategic leadership.

This situation in Lurgan seems to be an accepted outcome due to the lack of leadership and that in itself is means education is in a terminal trajectory.

Belfast Telegraph

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