Schools are secure and sustainable, principals assure parents

Laurelhill Community College, Lisburn. Pic by Google
Laurelhill Community College, Lisburn. Pic by Google

The principals two Lisburn post-primary schools named in an Education Authority report that raises questions about the sustainability of school provision have stressed that their schools are not at risk of closure or merger.

James Martin of Laurelhill Community College and Jim Sheerin of Lisnagarvey High School spoke out to address concerns about the future of their schools following the publication of the Education Authority’s latest Annual Action Plan.

Lisnagarvey High School, Warren Gardens, Lisburn. Pic by Google

Lisnagarvey High School, Warren Gardens, Lisburn. Pic by Google

The 2018/19 plan sets out a number of key issues for local schools, and actions to be taken forward between April this year and next March.

The document, which also details issues and actions carried forward from last year’s plan, refers to Laurelhill Community College and Lisnagarvey High School, stating that the key issue for the schools is to: “Ensure school places are located as required and address school provision where sustainability is an issue.”

It adds that the managing authorities have been tasked with “developing options for future provision at Laurelhill CC and Lisnagarvey HS by March 2019.”

The wording of the report, and subsequent media coverage, sparked concerns among parents that the schools could be facing possible merger or closure. But Mr Martin and Mr Sheerin say that’s definitely not the case.

In a letter to parents, the Laurelhill headmaster described media headlines about possible school closures and mergers as “alarmist in nature”.

“I want to assure parents, pupils, staff and the whole community that Laurelhill Community College is both secure and sustainable,” he said.

“The school is having its most successful sustained period on record. Within the last 12 months we have produced the best GCSE and GCE results for non-grammar schools in Lisburn, we hold the Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council Drama and Sports’ Team prizes and have been awarded the Gold Award from the IFA. The school is NOT up for closure or merger.”

Mr Martin continued: “This Education Authority Plan has not been discussed with Laurelhill Community College Governors, Principal or the local community.

“The Lisburn area is growing therefore the area needs school places. The discussions involving Laurelhill Community College are about managing school places at secondary level NOT about closing.

“I will be talking to the Education Authority in due course and seeking the best way forward for Laurelhill.”

Stressing that Lisnagarvey High School isn’t at risk of merger or closure, Mr Sheerin commented: “Lisnagarvey High School has been oversubscribed for the past three years and we have actually been in discussion with the department about trying to get an increased admission number.

“We have 556 children at the school at present and that number is going to rise to over 600 in the next two years.

“We have been in the first quartile for secondary school performance for the past four years, so we actually have increasing numbers of parents wanting to send their children to the school.”

Meanwhile, the Education Authority Action Plan also highlights the need for the establishment of Autism Spectrum Disorder Centres and General Learning Support Centres at a number of local primary and post-primary schools, including Fort Hill Integrated College, Fort Hill Integrated Primary and Dromara Primary School.

The document says the managing authority for each of the schools is to carry out consultation on the issue by March 2019.

It also states that the managing authority is to consult on options for future primary provision at Maghaberry Primary School by May 2018.