There has been a cross-community call at Stormont for Education Minister John O’Dowd to reach some sort of compromise with Dromore Central Primary School campaigners.
That’s according to Lagan Valley MLA Brenda Hale, who took the campaign to the floor of the Assembly by way of an adjournment debate last week.
Campaigners have been calling for Central’s replacement home to conform to the 28-class base originally envisaged rather than the 25-class base now under construction, but so far the Education Minister and his department have refused to move from the position that the new school will provide ample accommodation.
Last week’s Stormont debate reportedly saw “all sides of the house” urge the Minister to at least prepare the ground for future additional classrooms.
“I was delighted,” said Mrs Hale, “that as proposer of the debate, I received cross-community support during the proceedings and that the Education Minister was left with much to think about, as all sides of the house called upon him to show some degree of compromise and at least agree to pile the ground at the new school site, for future additional classrooms.”
Delighted too, she said, that Dromore Central principal Mrs Linda Allen was able to join her at Parliament Buildings to view the debate, Mrs Hale pledged continuing assistance to the school.
During the debate the Lagan Valley MLA also paid tribute to soon-to-retire Dromore High School principal Mr John Wilkinson and voiced the hope that the High School’s own newbuild would soon get the go-ahead. Commending Mrs Hale for raising the Dromore Central issue, Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson spoke of determination in the pursuit of additional classrooms.
“We are delighted,” he said, “that the construction of the new school is well underway at Mossvale Road and there is no doubt this will represent a significant improvement on current primary school facilities in Dromore.
“However, we are absolutely determined to pursue the provision of additional classrooms to meet the needs of a community that will continue to expand in years to come.
“It is surely short sighted if the Department of Education continues to plan new schools on this basis as the cost of providing these classrooms in the future will increase.
“Now is the time, during the construction phase, to make provision for the present and plan for the future.”