THE battle lines are drawn between two leading controlled grammar schools in Enniskillen over a proposal to amalgamate them in line with the Western Education and Library Board’s, ‘area strategic plan’.
The Plan seeks to maximise the use and sharing of the existing schools’ estate.
In that way, it would reduce the number of surplus places, and duplication of services.
The Collegiate Grammar School, and Portora Royal, have adopted a contrary attitude to the Plan – the Collegiate firmly against, Portora, for.
Interestingly, each school has around the ‘500’ enrolment figure as fixed by the Department of Education.
However, Neil Morton, the headmaster of Portora said amalgamation would relieve his school of having to provide voluntarily and fund extra-curricular activites which are not sustainable.
“I’m talking about rowing, rugby, drama, music, etc. We do that better than most schools, but they take place outside of school hours.
“It is very hard, when you have a small school and a limited amount of money, it means you can’t reward people as well as they could be rewarded for the same thing in a bigger school.”
But, a defiant Elizabeth Armstrong, the head mistress of the Collegiate Grammar School accused the Education Minister, John O’Dowd of signalling that amalgamation of the two schools is to be brought forward, ‘in the face of the clear opposition of the Board of Governors of the Collegiate’.
She added: “This (opposition) was expressed most recently in the WELB consultation process on the Area Plan for County Fermanagh in the autumn.
“No account was taken of the fact that the Collegiate Board of Governors did not support this submission.”
She said the recently published Consultation Analysis report for Fermanagh highlighted that a strong majority of the respondents rejected the area plan for Fermanagh.
She went on: “Yet, the WELB took the decision to forward this plan to the Department of Education in December 2012 and, a month later, the Minister announces his intention to take the plan forward in full knowledge of the results of the public consultation and of the clear opposition of one of the schools involved. “
She went on: “This willingness to fly in the face of public opinion and the expressed will of Boards of Governors echoes the determination of earlier Ministers of Education from the same political party to abolish academic selection despite strong public support for the retention of grammar schools.”
She claimed the Minister’s end game was a move to all-ability schools. “Such an agenda shows a staggering lack of respect for our schools, our Boards of Governors and our young people whom we serve. It must not go unchallenged.”
She said the Board of Governors of the Collegiate ‘stood strong and resolute’ in their determination that the strong tradition of grammar school education in this county is not diluted or compromised in any way.
“They are equally determined that the Collegiate, as a high achieving girls’ grammar school with a clear and consistent sense of its own identity, will continue to serve our community in the years to come.”
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition