As hundreds of pupils from North Belfast celebrated getting their GCSE results last week a local education task group renewed their appeal for a new post-primary school to serve three of the most deprived areas in the city.
The Education Task Group, which was set up in 2007, argue that the children in Ardoyne, Ligoniel and Oldpark risk losing their community identity if a new all-ability post-primary school isn’t built in the heart of their district.
The on-going NI Commission for Catholic Education’s Post-Primary Review of Catholic Education (PPRCE) would see either a new all-ability school built in the Ardoyne/Ligoniel/Oldpark area or alternatively no post-primary provision in the area, with children having to travel to the Antrim Road or Hightown Road for post-primary education.
Elaine Burns, the co-chairperson of the community-based ETG, said that the results period only serves to highlight the importance of education in young people’s lives and how an all-ability school will be the best way of achieving the best education for all.
“We would like to congratulate all those who completed their GCSE qualifications and received the grades they wanted, and we wish them every success in their next steps,” she said.
“We understand the importance of education and the value of having quality schools within local communities which are easily accessible and offer the best education resources possible.”
She said their ideals remain steadfast and that includes making any new school not only an educational establishment for young people, but a centre for the entire community – young and old – to avail of.
“Our vision for Catholic education in the parishes of Saint Vincent de Paul, Holy Cross and Sacred Heart is for a new co-educational nursery and primary school in each of our three local parishes working in close partnership with a new co-educational all-ability post-primary school at the heart of our community.
“It is also our vision that usage of the new primary and post-primary schools’ facilities, where appropriate, would be extended for adult education, cultural, social and sports activities on a cross-community basis, giving school leavers a potential life long community connection to their schools and opportunities to further their education.”
She said that it is crucially important for young people from North Belfast to have access to the best education that is available so that many more can be celebrating exam success in the future. And, if the vast majority of responses to the PPRCE from the three areas in question are anything to go by, the people living in the communities agree.
“After an in-depth community consultation to debate the options following the Post Primary Review of Catholic Education, the community spoke out strongly in favour of a new post-primary school with over 4,000 individual responses supporting the need for such a provision.
“So as students celebrate their results and plan their future, and as parents prepare their children for the new school year ahead, we urge the NI Commission for Catholic Education to make the right decision and to grant the community a new school with the support of the Department for Education, so that future GCSE students can benefit from improved education facilities and celebrate further exam success.”