School digs in amid fears it could be axed in shake-up

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY MARK BAIN

A CO DOWN school is ready to stand strong over a threat to its fu­ture.

Movilla High School in New­tow­nards is in jeop­ardy as part of plans to ra­tio­nalise post-pri­mary pro­vi­sion across Ards and North Down. But UUP MLA Mike Nes­bitt, who is on the board of gover­nors at Movilla, has ac­cused the Ed­u­ca­tion Author­ity (EA) of “ar­ro­gance” over a claim the school does not have com­mu­nity sup­port.

Mr Nes­bitt warned that the EA is “in for the fight of its life” once a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion opens into the fu­ture of the school.

Un­der the guid­ance of prin­ci­pal Ian Bell, Movilla’s GCSE re­sults have im­proved three years in suc­ces­sion — a fact, said Mr Nes­bitt, that seems to have been lost on the Ed­u­ca­tion Author­ity.

“It was Movilla High School it­self that iden­ti­fied is­sues over sus­tain­abil­ity and since the school has been to­tally flex­i­ble in dis­cus­sions with the EA,” Mr Nes­bitt said. “New­tow­nards is the eighth largest town in North­ern Ire­land and these pro­pos­als will leave it with­out a non-se­lec­tive post-pri­mary school. That sim­ply can’t be al­lowed to hap­can pen. We’re not pre­cious about the name and if the Movilla brand­ing has to go then so be it. This is about giv­ing the peo­ple of North Down a choice in­clud­ing a school that has im­proved GCSE re­sults three years in a row. It’s suc­ceed­ing but not once has the prin­ci­pal re­ceived any praise.

“The Ed­u­ca­tion Author­ity have come up with an area plan which we feel leaves it as a fore­gone con­clu­sion that Movilla High School will close. One of the rea­sons they gave was a lack of com­mu­nity sup­port for the school. I find it com­pletely ar­ro­gant of the Ed­u­ca­tion Author­ity to say sup­port is not there.

“We called a pub­lic meet­ing last Tues­day and 250 peo­ple turned up. A pe­ti­tion al­ready has 1,700 sig­na­tures. If that’s not com­mu­nity sup­port then I don’t know what is.” He added: “They

There are fears for the fu­ture of Movilla High School in New­tow­nards

ex­pect a tsunami of pos­i­tive re­sponses once this goes to pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion.”

The EA con­firmed Movilla High School was hav­ing “sus­tain­abil­ity is­sues” but said pro­pos­als for change “would be sub­ject to full con­sul­ta­tion”. A spokesman

said: “As the school’s manag­ing author­ity, the Ed­u­ca­tion Author­ity was charged with bring­ing for­ward po­ten­tial so­lu­tions aimed at en­sur­ing long-term sus­tain­able post-pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion pro­vi­sion across the Ards and North Down Area. A strate­gic re­view of post-pri­mary pro­vi­sion in the area was car­ried out, and the draft re­port was sub­se­quently shared with prin­ci­pals and chairs of gover­nors of schools across the Lo­cal Govern­ment Dis­trict.

“The EA is cur­rently re­ceiv­ing feed­back from these post-pri­mary schools and this feed­back will be used to help in­form pro­pos­als on which the EA can then con­sult with a range of stake­hold­ers across the area.

“The pur­pose of area plan­ning is to en­sure that pupils are taught in an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that com­prises a net­work of sus­tain­able schools, within rea­son­able trav­el­ling dis­tance, ca­pa­ble of ef­fec­tively de­liv­er­ing the statu­tory cur­ricu­lum.

“Any pro­posal for a change to ed­u­ca­tion pro­vi­sion in the area will be sub­ject to full con­sul­ta­tion.”

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