Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland




Support growing in fight to save Hilden

PARENTS, staff and governors at Hilden Integrated Primary School are continuing their battle against the proposed closure and have held a series of meetings in recent weeks to rally support for the school.

Last week a delegation from the school, which included the Principal, vice chair and Chairman of the Board of Governors, met with the Chief Executive of the South Easter Education, Irene Knox, and said they felt more positive about the future of the school following the meeting.

"We raised many major items of concern with the Chief Executive, including the selection of Hilden for proposed closure and the criteria used to make that selection," Chairman of Hilden Integrated Primary School's Board of Governors, Terry Conway.

"We emerged from the meeting in a more positive mood and we felt that our points had finally been properly considered. "We felt the Chief Executive had a good approach to the whole debate and she took on board more readily the points wewere raising," he added.

Mr Conway also raised the proposed closure of the school with a representative of the Children's Commissioner, who said she would be writing to the Chief Executive of the SEELB, questioning why the school had been selected for closure.

The Senior Development Officer at the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, Lorna McAlpin, also met with Mr Conway last week, giving details about integrated education provision in the Lisburn area.

Mr Conway said he had been greatly encouraged by the level of support for retaining the school. "The latest support has come to us from Dawson Stelfox, who is developing the site at Barbour Threads in Hilden," he said.

"He indicated over 40 houses will be built in the area within the next eighteen months, with plans for some 500 residences in the area in five to ten years.

"He also voiced his support for the retention of the school, which can be an important factor when families are looking to buy houses in an area," added Mr Conway.

He is also intending to write to the new Education Minister, Ms Maria Eagle, as well as to the Secretary of State, Peter Hain, to make them aware of the situation.

Mr Conway has also thanked parents and friends of the school who have worked tirelessly to campaign for the retention of the school.

The parents have recently established a steering group to co-ordinate their efforts and have set up a website to lobby support for Hilden Integrated.

"The message we need to get out there is a positive one," said Mr Conway. "We want to encourage parents. They should feel more confident about the school staying open following the meetings that have taken place and the support that we have received," he concluded.

The message coming from Hilden Integrated Primary School and the surrounding community is quite clear - do not close our school.

Ulster Star