Monday, 30 January 2012

Central Integrated Primary take campaign to the hill

At the front Cllr. John Barry, Stephen Farry MLA, Steven Agnew MLA
and Peter Campbell  (Principal)
Picture by Joanna Braniff
Earlier today a petition from supporters of Bangor Central Integrated Primary School was taken to Stormont to be handed into the speaker of the Assembly. The petition is the urge the Minister of Education and North Down Borough Council to reconsider selling the adjacent Leisure Centre site to a private company, while the school built for 300 pupils houses 600 next door on a somewhat suffocating parcel of land.

When you consider that the 600 pupils currently have to take their lunch at Bangor Academy next door. Have their sports' day on the Academy playing fields. And all around their playground are a series of huts. This is hardly an ideal situation for the only Integrated Primary School in town.

Earlier this morning the Principal Peter Campbell was on the radio pointing out that the reasons the school needed improved premises on its current location were firstly the capacity issue, also that is was currently part of an education village with Central Nursery and Bangor Academy on the same pocket of land and Glenlola Collegiate and the South East Regional College sites a few minutes walk away. It therefore allows for ease of parents dropping off and collecting children of differing ages. Plus with its unique integrated status for key stage 1 and 2 pupils it needs to be accessible to all of the town's population.

Friends in the Scottish party may remember me talking from an intervention mic during a policies for the future session about how the fact that there was a move to integrated education slightly further to the West of the West of Scotland was a reason why it made most sense to move towards it in Scotland. This school is a prime example. But while others with more land have been updated to do away with the need for temporary classrooms this one has been overlooked by successive Education ministers. This is despite promises to consider working to acquire the Leisure Centre site by the previous minister to enable that improvement.

The petition which has over 3000 signatures is calling for the DUP led North Down Borough Council to reconsider its decision to sell the site to private developers but keep it for public use for the development of the school. If the ministers for education in Northern Ireland are serious about a future where pupils from all historic communities work and learn together schools like BCIPS need to be allowed to develop. My primary school elsewhere in town has less pupils, but more space and an extension adding five new classrooms. My secondary school over in Newtownards in recent years also has had an extensive modernising extension project again doing away with the multitude of temporary classrooms. In both cases many of the temporary classrooms where present for over 20 or 30 years.

We need to do better for our children and their education, a school whose enrollment is twice what its buildings were designed for, that is continuously oversubscribed every year needs to be allow breathing space. Not just for its current pupils but so that it can provide all the service that it needs to, including its own room for sports.

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