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COLLEGIATE ACTION GROUP

Update December 2014

 It is a matter of grave concern and deep disappointment that, in approving Development Proposals 260, 261 and 262, the Minister has chosen to close the Collegiate and ignore the clearly expressed opposition of the Board of Governors, staff, parents and pupils to these proposals.  We have consistently called on the Minister to reject these controversial proposals which have caused significant division in the community and to give the leadership all our school communities and our wider community need in order to find a truly inclusive way forward for the good of all our young people.     This call has clearly been ignored and the Minister has approved the closure of an oversubscribed controlled grammar school reducing further the number of post-primary schools in the controlled/voluntary sector from the original six to two in County Fermanagh.    If this can happen to the Collegiate Grammar School is any grammar school or indeed any school in Northern Ireland safe from closure?

 In fact the Minister’s decision closes two well-established grammar schools with proven records.  Both the Collegiate and Portora with its 400 years of distinguished history will be discontinued under these proposals and we will have instead a school offering  a reduced number of places for future generations in our community sitting on split sites in our island town for the foreseeable future.   There is no guarantee of a new build: indeed the split site is written into the development proposals. The school will also be potentially financially vulnerable due to the reduced number of pupil places in a scenario where funding follows pupils with the running costs of the two existing sites remaining constant.  The WELB said in their statement that they proposed this to enhance the educational experience and opportunity for the pupils.  How can belonging to a school community, trying to build its new identity across a split site be an enhanced experience for anyone?  

 The Minister also states that he is putting the interests of children first; yet he chose to make this announcement about the closure of the school on the eve of the last AQE test for P7 girls hoping to gain a place in the Collegiate.

 On the basis of the overwhelming public and community support expressed so vividly at both local and regional level during the consultation period we remain resolute in our determination to stand firm in our opposition to these proposals.  This is by no means over and we will explore all possible options to overturn this decision.

 We thank you for your stalwart support and encouragement to date and we would urge you to make your views known by contacting your local and regional MLAs and by writing letters to the local and regional newspapers.  This is not a decision which will benefit our young people and our community and it must not be allowed to stand.


September Update

We were delighted that the motion tabled by Arlene Foster and Lord Morrow and supported by Tom Elliott and many other MLAs from parties across Northern Ireland requiring the Minister to reject the WELB development proposals 260, 261 and 262 regarding the proposed closure of the Collegiate Grammar School and Portora Royal School and to seek consensus on the future of these schools with broad community support was carried by a clear majority in a lively debate in the Assembly on Monday 22 September.   An amendment introduced by Sinn Fein who opposed the motion fell. 

We believe the clear message emerging from this debate and its resounding result is the same message emerging loudly from the public consultation.   These development proposals and the wider WELB process within which they sit have failed to command the consensus and broad community support which we have always stated must be at the heart of any solution.  The public has totally lost faith in a divisive process which sets one school against another.

We welcome the Minister’s statement during the debate that the enabling works for Devenish College on the Tempo Road site will commence in this financial year subject to the outcome of the current Economic Appraisal.  We also note that the Minister is on record as stating that he is committed to providing a new build for Devenish College whether he approves these proposals or not.  

We urge the Minister to take careful account of the strong public feeling against these controversial development proposals and to show right judgement and strong leadership in rejecting them.  We also urge Sinn Fein and the other schools engaged in this debate to take heed of the outcome of this most recent debate at regional level alongside the strong public opposition to these proposals on the ground in County Fermanagh and to join in seeking a solution which commands the necessary consensus and broad community support.

July Update

The consultation on the Development Proposals 260, 261 and 262 closed on 14 July 2014.   Warmest thanks to everyone who responded.  The Action Group and the wider Collegiate community are greatly encouraged by the overwhelming and widespread support across the community for the school’s opposition to these controversial proposals. We trust now the Minister will show leadership in responding to the widespread community opposition to these proposals by taking them definitively off the table and by setting the necessary parameters to enable us all to find a better and more inclusive way forward which diminishes no one.   

June update

Make your views known on these controversial proposals (Development Proposals 260, 261 and 262)  by writing  to the Area Planning Policy Team at the Department of Education, Rathgael House, Balloo Road, Rathgill, Bangor, BT 19 7PR before the closing date of 14 July 2014.  Copy your letter to the Minister of Education at the same address or email
private.office@deni.gov.uk  and address your email to Mr John O’Dowd, Minister of Education.  Write to your MLAs also.

Time is short-Support the Collegiate NOW!  

Click here to see why the Board of Governors of the Collegiate are opposed to these proposals.

Presentation of petition to Stormont

On Tuesday 17 June 2014 over 100 members of the Collegiate community, including pupils, parents, staff, governors and friends of the school travelled to Stormont to see Arlene Foster MLA present the petition opposing the closure of the Collegiate which has garnered over 7,000 signatures to date to the Speaker of the House.  Mrs Foster then spoke on the floor of the House, outlining why these controversial proposals must be stopped.  Following this a group representing pupils,parents, staff and Governors met with the First Minister, Peter Robinson .  In this meeting the controversial issues raised by this proposal at both local and regional level were discussed.      The group were delighted to see the regional media there in force to record the strength of the opposiiton. 

Public Meeting  30 May 2014
The Action Group was delighted with the excellent turnout at their public meeting on Friday 30 May 2014 in support of their “Save the Collegiate Campaign”  Speaking after the meeting a spokesperson said that the high attendance at this meeting (almost 500 people packed the Assembly Hall)  along with the consistent messages they were receiving on the doorsteps indicated that there is no doubt that their campaign to save the Collegiate from closure has very strong support from across the whole community. The speakers, Neville Hale, a parent from the Action Group, Mrs Florence Brunt,Chairman of the Board of Governors, Miss Elizabeth Armstrong, Principal , Arlene Foster, MLA, Tom Elliott, MLA and Bob McCartney QC received warm applause and approbation from the audience for their well-reasoned support of the school.  Prevailing themes in the comments from the floor of the meeting were the strong support  for the Collegiate and the stand it is taking, a lack of confidence in the WELB process and a robust determination to explore every avenue of opposition to this proposal.     

May update

At their meeting on Thursday 8 May 2014 the WELB decided to publish the development proposals to discontinue the Collegiate Grammar School, to discontinue Portora Royal School and to establish a new co-educational 11-18, Non-Denominational Voluntary Grammar School.   

It is a matter of deep regret and very serious concern that our controlling body, the WELB has decided to publish these Development Proposals in the full knowledge of the outcome of their own consultations with the Board of Governors, parents, staff and pupils of the Collegiate which all indicated resounding opposition to these proposals.   The Parental Deputation from the Collegiate at the WELB meeting reiterated that opposition strongly.  

 Given the WELB’s attitude to previous consultations this decision is of course not entirely unexpected and we have a clear strategy in place to challenge robustly this process in every direction and at all levels as we move to the next stage.  We have been greatly encouraged by the strong and unequivocal support from our parents and the wider community for our position in demanding a fair and inclusive way forward and we will continue to build on this strong position, confident that it commands community support.

We now enter a two month public consultation period closing on 14 July 2014.    We would encourage you to make your views known in this final consultation phase by writing to:-

 The Area Planning Policy Team                        Mr John O’Dowd

Department of Education                                    Minister of Education

Rathgael House                                                   Rathgael House

Balloo Road                                                          Balloo Road

Rathgill                                                                  Rathgill

Bangor                                                                  Bangor

BT 19 7PR                                                             BT 19 7PR

or you can send an e-mail to private.office@deni.gov.uk addressed to Mr John O’Dowd

 Please also write to your local MLAs.   Scroll down to find addresses under the link ‘Useful Addresses’

 

April update

 We were very much encouraged by the high turnout of parents at the WELB consultation on Wednesday 9 April 2014 A large number of parents spoke passionately in support of the school and took the WELB officials repeatedly to task for their failure to date to deliver a strategic plan which would support all the schools and which could command full community support.  The discussion was lengthy and robust: parents continually challenged the material in the presentations delivered by the Board officers and repeatedly  tasked these officers to take the clear and unambiguous message back to the WELB that this proposal should be shelved.   In the afternoon the staff community delivered the same clear message at their meeting with the officials.   We thank you for this support and we will continue to work with you in the new term to put a halt to this flawed process.   There is a great deal at stake here and this proposal must not be allowed to go by default for the sake of our current and future generations of young people in the community.

Please find below a link to a document given out at the meeting. 

Document Link




February 2014 Update

 Please find below a link to a document produced by the Board of Governors.  In this document the Board of Governors takes the opportunity to update parents and the wider community on the current situation regarding the proposal to amalgamate the Collegiate Grammar School and Portora Royal School.  They also reiterate their opposition to this proposal and to set out clearly the reasons why it will not deliver a positive outcome for the future of our young people and community.  

 The Board of Governors join with the Collegiate Action Group in welcoming the most positive support of the community on the ground along with MLAs and public representatives including Arlene Foster and Tom Elliott.  

 Please click on the link below to read the full document. 

Document link.



On Wednesday 22 May 2013 a meeting was held for parents to discuss the WELB proposals to take forward an amalgamation between the Collegiate Grammar School and Portora Royal School as part of the overall plan for education in the controlled/voluntary post-primary sector in County Fermanagh.  We were very pleased to welcome a good number of parents to school on that evening and we had a very positive and informative discussion.  A summary of the main themes emerging from the meeting and an information sheet given out at the meeting are available via the links below.

At that meeting it was decided to set up an action group which met on Wednesday 29 May 2013 and a committee was formed to lead the group in challenging these proposals on several different fronts.  The action group is determined to stand up for the Collegiate and for what it offers to the community as a single-sex grammar school. 

On Monday 24th June 2013 the Action Group welcomed a sizeable audience to their meeting in the School Assembly Hall.  Aubrey Murray, Chair of the Action Group encouraged the community to make their views known to public representatives.  Copies of a petition to support the continuation of the Collegiate Grammar School as a single-sex grammar school for girls and to oppose the merger/amalgamation of the Collegiate Grammar School with any other school were also made available.  

The petition is available below along with lists of addresses of public representatives.  If you would like to make a donation click on the link below for details.

 It is essential that these proposals which will have significant impact on both the current school population and future generations of young people are not allowed to go by default.

 

 

September 2013 Update

In meetings held over the summer the Action Group has been encouraged by the interest and support offered by a number of our local MLA’s.

The recent Newsletter lead article and editorial published on 17 September 2013 (http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/the-urgent-battle-to-save-ulster-s-fine-grammar-schools-1-5497526) demonstrates that politicians from across N. Ireland are ready to take account of public opinion and stand up for the controlled grammar schools which are under threat from Area Planning.  This is a pleasing development in that it highlights that the threat to the Collegiate is part of a much bigger plan which is being implemented province wide.

E-mail: collegiateactiongroup@gmail.com

Donations/Correspondence



Points for Consideration 



Twelve Good Reasons

 
Summary of Information from Meeting on 22 May 2013
  

Petition

 

Useful Addresses


Useful Addresses – Education Committee 

 

Useful Addresses – Fermanagh District Councillors