Central numbers cap ‘inexplicable’ - Hale

Dromrore Central Primary School principal Linda Allen and pupils in the great hall at Stormont with Lagan Valley MLA Brenda Hale.
Dromrore Central Primary School principal Linda Allen and pupils in the great hall at Stormont with Lagan Valley MLA Brenda Hale.

Lagan Valley MLA Brenda

Hale said this week a decision to cap admissions at Dromore Central Primary School was “inexplicable”.

It was Mrs Hale who last week hosted Principal Mrs Linda Allen and a deputation of 28 pupils at Stormont, where they had hoped to meet education minister John O’Dowd.

It was hoped they might again press their case for a 28-class new school rather than the 25-class school under construction, and express their frustration that admissions are to be capped and enrolment reduced for the 2015/16 school year.

In the event they were unable to meet Mr O’Dowd, who has so far rejected pleas for a 28-class school.

The Department of Education last week insisted the £16million newbuild for Dromore Central would deliver a state-of-the-art building that would benefit children in the area for many years.

“The new building will be big enough to accommodate all of the current enrolment of 704 pupils with additional space to expand enrolment to a maximum of 730 pupils,” a spokesperson said.

“Although the current enrolment equates to a 25-class base school, the school has decided to operate with 28 classes. This is a matter for the school which has the authority to allocate its LMS budget as it feels appropriate.”

Mrs Hale, however, said this week she and Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson had written to the minister to ask him to take action.

“Currently Dromore Central Primary has an admission number of 116, which is now proposed to be lowered to 104, with a total enrolment of 710,” she said.

“However, even if the reduced admission of 104 was spread evenly across all seven year groups the total enrolment ought to be 728.

“That figure is just three pupils short of what is required for a 28-base classroom school for Dromore.

“The decision to impose this cap on admissions is inexplicable when it is evident that the school could sustain current admission levels.

“Instead, pupils will now be forced away from the school, but even with reduced admissions, the new school building, when occupied, will not be sufficient to meet the needs of the current and projected enrolment.

“Construction on the build is underway and it is essential that a decision is taken on the provision of three additional classrooms that are needed to accommodate the needs of this school.” Mrs Allen again insisted Dromore deserved a school that was fit for purpose not just at present but into the future.

“We were very disappointed and concerned,” she said, “that the minister felt unable to meet with the children of Dromore Central Primary School.

“We would welcome the opportunity to raise our concerns with him once again and a chance to present him with substantial evidence, including statements from his own policies and references to his own area planning data as to why he should reconsider his position.”