Growing concern over grammar school ‘consultations’

Una Lilley    RMG84

Una Lilley RMG84

CAMPAIGNERS opposed to the proposed mergers of the four Catholic post-primary schools in Enniskillen have called on the CCMS to publish their response to the consultation on reforming secondary education. 
As revealed last November, St Michael’s College and Mount Lourdes Grammar School are set to be absorbed into two single sex Catholic voluntary grammar schools by 2018. Proposals by CCMS will see St Fanchea’s College merge with Mount Lourdes while St Joseph’s will form part of an expanded St Michael’s.
Hundreds of parents and children participated in a consultation process in January, challenging the CCMS proposals and urging them to put the needs of students first.
CCMS officials had committed to publish their response by March or April. With schools set to close their doors for the summer holidays at the end of this month, there is growing anger among parents and pupils that no response has yet been published. 
Chairman of the Equality for St Fanchea’s campaign group, Una Lilley, says those who participated in consultation process have been left in limbo and deserve a reply. 
“Parents and pupils at St Fanchea’s took hours to engage extensively in the consultation on the proposals. Hundreds and hundreds of responses were collected from stakeholders explaining their concerns over ethos, skills and fairness associated with a ‘close and expand’ approach as opposed to amalgamation,” Mrs Lilley told the Herald. 
“At that point, the CCMS committed to consider submissions and revert with a response in either March or April. We are now in the middle of June and we have heard nothing only rumour. Those who took the time to engage so positively in this process deserve a response. 
“Those parents of children who are approaching the eleven plus exam also deserve a response. Why should ten and eleven year old children be left to go through the unnecessary trauma of preparing for an academic assessment when the CCMS have concluded upon the need to move beyond this divisive and regressive approach to education.”
James Darcy is Chairman of the Save St Joseph’s campaign and hopes that the recent appointment of the DUP’s Peter Weir as Education Minister means they may have more success in blocking or receiving realistic proposals. 
“It has been suggested that the decision is being delayed to a time where we cannot object to it. Any consultation that parents or students received from the CCMS had no impact. I think that as stakeholders within all of the four schools we deserve a right to know where the process is at and when might CCMS put a date on the decision to be released.”
Mr Darcy is urging the people of Fermanagh not to write to the CCMS but to the trustees to express their feelings in the hope that it may speed the process on. 
In response, CCMS said they were “still considering the many responses received in relation to this consultation”. 
A spokesman said: “CCMS is committed to working closely with the school community and to communicating with all those involved over the coming months.” 


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