by JULIE-ANN SPENCE
Hilden Integrated Primary School
Hilden stunned over shock
JUST over a year after the community united
in a successful campaign to keep Hilden Integrated PS open,
staff, parents and pupils have been given the devastating news
that the commissioners sent in to run the South Eastern
Education and Library Board want to close it.
The news has stunned everyone connected with
the school after they had been led to believe they had three
years to turn around the fortunes of the small, but historical
school. However, it now appears the school may close as early as
the end of this year.
Principal Mr Billy Gourley said the children
and staff were very upset by the news and there was a real sense of uncertainty throughout the
We are in the middle of a process in which
none of us know what will happen. We cannot get firm answers.
The timescale is very short and people need to know what their
future is going to be" he said.
Barbara McConville's daughter goes to Hilden
IPS and she herself was a pupil at the school, as were
generations of her family.
She said children and parents are devastated.
"It is so disappointing," she said. "I honestly feel like they
just gave us a stay of execution. We have worked tirelessly and
genuinely believed we could turn things around. This decision by
the Commissioners is completely out of the blue and a 'eal smack
in the face.
One mother of an autistic child is really
frantic about it. The child is worried sick because he has just
settled into the school. It is going to be traumatic for him.
The parents want to stay and fight it but the
reality is the Commissioners are playing with children's lives
and parents are concerned about the shortage of places at other
Lisburn schools.The Commissioners are forcing the hand of
parents, who are doing what they have to do for their children.
We are really disheartened and feel let down
by the SEELB. I feel this was always part of their long term
plan and I am disappointed that unelected Commissioners, who
know nothing about what is going on the ground and have never
been to the school can make a decision like this without
'concerned' by new plan for Hilden school closure
THE Northern Ireland Council for Integrated
Education (NICIE) has expressed concern that if Hilden closes
there will be no integrated places for children from the school.
Michael Wardlow, Chief Executive of NICIE said:
The rationalisation of the schools estate, as recommended by the
Strategic Review of Education by Professor George Bain, is
impacting upon all schools which have low enrolments and
unfortunately it would appear that Hilden, like a lot of small
schools across Northern Ireland, has been earmarked for closure.
"Since the school transformed to integrated
status in September 1996, Hilden has embraced the integrated
ethos and contributed greatly to its local community by
welcoming children from all religious and cultural backgrounds.
"Many of the parents in Hilden, a former Mill
School, do not have transport and will be forced to access
places in local religiously separate schools.
"This is obviously upsetting and devastating
for the parents, teachers and children who have for the past 12
years been formally integrated and seems to fly in the face of
the history of the school which throughout its existence has
been religiously mixed."
He added: "We are concerned that if the
school is closed, that theparents who want an integrated choice
for their children will have no other alternative as the only
established integrated primary school in the area is Oakwood IPS
which is oversubscribed and is some distance from the school. We
will be talking to the SEELB to present the case for planned
integrated education in the greater Lisburn area as part of the
proposed area based planning process to ensure that every parent
who wants an integrated place for their children can have one."
School `deceived' says Davis
LISBURN Councillor, Alderman Ivan Davis, who
supported the campaign to keep Hilden IPS open in 2006, said the
school had "been deceived by government agencies".
Mr Davis continued: "Hilden IPS is another
victim of the deception and fear policy which for some
considerable time has been emanating from various government
agencies. "Teachers, pupils and parents have not been spared as
the 'deceive and wait' philosophy worms it way through school
after school and area after area.
The success of integrated education illustrates
the important historical role Hilden IPS has played in the
community. The contribution of past and present staff, pupils
and parents cannot be overstated, sadly their contribution was
not matched by figures in authority. "