St Gemma’s parents will not give up fight

By Staff Reporter

A group representing the parents of a North Belfast school earmarked for closure will continue their campaign to keep the school open. The parents of St Gemma’s High School in Oldpark have been fighting for the retention of their school since it was revealed last year that the Catholic Council for Maintained Schools (CCMS) were to recommend the school for closure.

This week the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education review of post-primary education confirmed that the CCMS were to begin a consultation on the closure of the school with a view to it shutting in September 2012.

The report also recommends that North Belfast should have four 11-19 post-primary schools, with at least two being co-educational.

Anne Flood from the St Gemma’s Parents Group said they will fight on despite this week’s announcement.

“The St Gemma’s parents group, whilst acknowledging that there is a need for a co-ed all-ability school still feel that there is a great need for St Gemma’s to stay open until plans for such a school are put in place,” she said.

“People of this area know that St Gemma’s is much more than a learning facility, the school is very much part of our community as it provides a homework centre and facilities for local people and community groups to use.

“We will be continuing with our campaign to keep St Gemma’s open and are still waiting for a meeting with (Education Minister) John O’Dowd. We will be calling on the people of the area to get behind us on these issues.”

Gerard McCabe, local Sinn Féin councillor and father of a daughter at the school, said the parents had “rightly voiced their anger at the dismissive way they have been treated by the CCMS who have now recommended this school closure”.

He said the opportunity to consult with education minster John O’Dowd should not be missed.

“We need to grasp the opportunity that the Minister presents with this consultation and ensure it is fully inclusive of the whole community’s views on the way ahead,” he said.

“The bottom line is we all want to see what is best for our young people and will not settle for anything less than the highest standards of education. I’m calling on everyone to take part and have their say. Parents, staff and the wider community need to express their views and together we can shape the way ahead.”

Gerry Lundy, deputy chief executive of the CCMS said that they have already formally met with parents from the school and he urged them to take part in the consultation.

“We have consulted formally with parents of St Gemma’s,” he said.

“The next stage is to finalise a development proposal that will be subject to public consultation period of eight weeks during which community representatives can put their views to the minister.”

 

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