Sunday, June 26, 2005

Post Primary Admissions.... What consultation?

Councillor Smith stated "Following from the Costello report the Department of Education has issued a consultation document containing proposals on the admissions criteria, which might be used in the transfer of pupils from primary to post-primary schools. The Departments proposals specifically exclude the use of academic criteria. In the absence of any such academic criteria it is virtually inevitable that we will move to a comprehensive type of education with admissions to post primary schools being largely based on post-codes. This will create enormous problems in the North Down area. This Council has already considered the issue and the conclusion was that the proposed arrangements were unsatisfactory.

There is a growing ground swell of objection throughout the area to the Departments proposals and these have been highlighted in recent articles in the local newspapers and at a recent meeting of concerned parents at Bangor Grammar School. The purpose of my resolution is to lend support to that local opinion by reaffirming this Councils views on the issue and urging the Department to ensure that any new admissions arrangements allow schools to match the aptitude and ability of pupils to what the school offers. This will not result in a continuation of the existing transfer tests, as the proposed new pupil profiles will provide a new way of making the necessary match. However, my feeling is that the Department is simply over ruling or ignoring objections or even giving them due consideration.

At a recent Council meeting I proposed that we write to the Department of Education, with the following:

"This council deplores the absence, in the Department of Education consultation document on admissions to post primary schools, of any criteria which would help schools to ensure that there is a match between what they offer and the aptitude and ability of the pupils seeking admission, and calls on the Department to urgently consider how such criteria might be included in the proposed new arrangements."

I was very pleaseds that this proposal was accepted by all.

Parents Must be Informed

At Tuesday evening's Council meeting there was a document from the South Eastern Education & Library Board called Review controlled School Provision in Bangor Town.

Cllr Smith said "I raised my concerns at a SEELB Board meeting and feel it necessary to do so at Council. My main concern was that the document has been circulated to Boards of Governors and not parents. Parents have not been consulted and are picking up bits and pieces of information which at times it is not always correct. This has led to worry that a number of primary schools have been targeted for closure. Also I am worried that the response is due to be with the SEELB by 24th June - I feel a very unrealistic deadline and one which has not included parent consultation.

The paper sets out the population level of Bangor town and recognises that the area is maturing and housing development has decreased over the years. Following on from this education provision has produced a number of surplus places in a number of primary schools.

There are a number of recommendations contained within the document for primary and post primary education and Council recommend that it restate their commitment to protecting the quality of education provision in North Down. The SEELB officers were also invited to speak to Council. Once again I felt this was getting the sequence of events in the wrong order. I proposed that Council write to the SEELB asking that the date of 24th June be extended to allow for full parent consultation. This proposal was accepted, I hope that parents of the area are provided with the consultation document, that they are consulted before any decision may be made.

I accept that there is overprovision of primary school places in North Down and that some hard decisions will need to be taken, but surely it is more sensible to bring people along with any form of consultation rather than information being handed down 2nd hand.