WE DID IT! Staff and pupils at Knockmore Primary School give a huge
cheer after receiving the news they have all been waiting for - the
school will not be closed. US4811.105A0 Pic by AIDAN O'REILLY
THERE has been delight at the news that Knockmore Primary is no longer being considered for closure.
The Mayor, Councillor Brian Heading, said he was pleased common sense
had prevailed. He said: "All those involved in this campaign have
consistently shown that Knockmore Primary is a wonderful example of
special needs children and those in mainstream education learning,
playing and growing up together and it is great news that the
Commissioners have recognised the very special role
that Knockmore Primary, School plays to families from across all communities."
Staff at Knockmore Primary School joined with parents and local politicians during a special meeting on Wednesday evening to welcome news that plans to close the school have been shelved. US4811-531cd
Throughout the campaign to save the school it was highlighted that the School's enrolment numbers exceeded the minimum number of pupils recommended under the Bain report, that the School's financial position was sound and that a recent inspection report rated the school's performance as good to outstanding.
Following the presentation of a petition at Stormont last week, elected representatives and parents of the School met the Board's Commissioners to oppose any potential closure.
The chairman of the Council's Corporate Services Committee, Councillor Stephen Martin, said this week's decision would help "to alleviate the immediate stress and uncertainty that pupils and theír families had been living with since the Board's intentions had been made public".
He said: "Knockmore should not have been considered for closure. The many, many arguments against such a proposal have been articulated time and time again in recent months and I am encouraged the Board has listened to these arguments."
Alderman Paul Porter said he was amazed and overwhelmed by the support the school has within the Community.
"I would like to commend all those involved and look forward to working with Knockmore Primary School as they continue to deliver first-class education services to the children of Lisburn and beyond" he said.
Assembly Member Paul Givan said it was 'the only decision that could have been reached' by the Board after the 'indisputable case' put to them.
"This is a victory that will be universally welcomed by everyone and the relief of parents and teachers is palpable" he said.
Referring to the potential relocation of Special Units Mr Givan said, "The Education Board said their proposal only concerned the mainstream school and yet the statement refers to further examination of the special units. The handling of this issue has been very poor by the Board and before any relocation of any children in these units is concerned, albeit even a small number, will require great care and consideration."
Councillor Ronnie Crawford also welcomed the news. He said: "It was delightful to be a part of a concerted cross-community campaign which put the needs of the children first. It is a pity that the parents had to be caused so much concern and anxiety before the future of their children's education was assured. It is imperative that all the special needs classes be retained on this site and that no further threat to the viability of this very special and successful establishment arises in the future."
MLA Jonathan Craig commended the decision but said he was cautious about the Board's plans to relocate some of the special needs units from the school which he said could be "detrimental".
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson commended all involved with the campaign and praised the "power of the people" on this occasion.
Health Minister Edwin Poots said he was delighted and "pleased that the superb work being carried out in the speech and language unit will continue at the school."
by JENNY MONROE
WEEKS of tireless campaigning by parents, pupils, staff, politicians and the entire Lisburn community ended in success this week when the South Eastern Education and Library Board said it would not be taking plans to close Knockmore Primary School any further.
A special meeting on Monday of the commissioners who are running the Board decided that a Development Proposal on closure of the School would not be published. But, while retaining a number of Special Units in the school the Board said it would consider further the relocation of several of the units into other mainstream primary schools nearer to the pupils' homes.
Acting Principal Sharon Shannon said the school was delighted with the news and thanked everyone who supported the school in its battle to stay open.
"They are too numerous to thank individually" she said, "but I would like to specifically thank first of all the parents, past and present, who have been steadfast throughout this whole process and I will never have enough words to express my personal gratitude.
"My thanks must also go to all the members of Lisburn City Council for their unanimous support in our campaign to remain open and to the Mayor Mr Brian Heading for affording us the opportunity to present our case to the Council members. We have had marvellous support from politicians from all political parties, many of whom took time out of their busy schedule to personally visit the school, and without their help and guidance there is no question that Knockmore would be looking at a very different outcome today.
"Finally I wish to thank Mr Paul Givan MLA and Alderman Paul Porter for their determination, support and unending energy in keeping Knockmore Primary's campaign running and as a school we look forward to many more years of educating our children with as much care and professionalism as we have done for the past 42 years."
The Working Group who fought hard for the school say all involved in the campaign are 'estatic' with the outcome.
A spokesperson for the group commented: "We have gained much support in our hard-fought campaign to keep Knockmore open. We wish to thank Lisburn City Council for its unanimous cross-party support and all the MLAs who have backed our campaign. "Knockmore Primary School has gained many friends throughout our campaign including Children's Law Centre, Autism NI, SENAC, Afasic and a number of other organisations, all of whom were instrumental in helping the SEELB arrive at the correct decision.
"We also particularly wish to thank the people of Lisburn and surrounding areas who supported us unconditionally. This is a victory for the community of Knockmore Primary School and a victory for all children. It is an acknowledgement of the high level of educational standards provided within Knockmore Primary School.
"As a group, we will continue to work together to ensure that Knockmore Primary School continues to have a bright future."
IN CONTRAST to the elation at Knockmore, there was dismay at Dunmurry High School after the Board's Commissioners decided to go ahead with publishing a Development Proposal to close the school from 31st August 2012.
This news came despite extensive appeals from public representatives and parents to keep the school open.
David Mack, Parent Representative on the Board of Governors said the community is shocked.
He said: "Dunmurry High School, throughout its 43 years of existence, has a strong record of academic achievement and plays a strong part in community life in the Seymour Hill, Dunmurry, and South Belfast area. News that the South Eastern Education and Library Board are proceeding with the planned closure has been roundly condemned by Governors, Staff, Parents, and the wider community, as a death nail to the Seymour Hill/Dunmurry area."
Mr Mack said he felt the decision has seen Dunmurry High School pay the ultimate price as the board addresses budgetary deficiencies.
He added: "During the consultation process, it bas become obvious to us that no consideration has been given to either pupils currently performing Key Stage 4 studies, or the severe impact on the school's 71 pupils currently being educated within the nurture classrooms."
Mr Mack said the Board have not taken into account the high number of 'lesser ability' students within the school.
"These pupils have special needs and educational statements, they require smaller classes, and a safe predictable structured educational environment. This is exactly what they enjoy at Dunmurry High School, with the emphasis on development of language and communication skills with focus on social, emotional, and challenging behaviours.
"These same pupils have currently embarked on courses specifically designed for their individual needs. "At present no other facilities exist in the local area for pupils to continue these courses should the school be forced to close."
Mr Mack says every pupil, regardless of academic ability, has the right to a fulfilling education, and that the decision to proceed with the closure of Dunmurry was potentially condemning these pupils to an "educational scrapheap".
He said: "The Board of Governors, Staff and other stakeholders reiterate their commitment to ensure that the school remains open and call upon the SEELB to immediately remove the threat against the school."
Lagan Valley MLA Jonathan Craig voiced his disappointment over the Board's decision. He said: "This will have a negative effect on the entire community. It will be the end of an era."
Councillor Margaret Tolerton said she is "absolutely disappointed in
the Board's attitude."
"We really did think there was hope," she commented.