School fights amalgamation

Newtownbreda High School
Newtownbreda High School

An improving Belfast secondary school will have its identity destroyed by a planned amalgamation, the High Court heard yesterday.

Lawyers for parents of children at Newtownbreda High argued no good reason has been given for its closure.

A judge was also told pupils have written to Education Minister John O’Dowd urging him to reconsider.

Mr O’Dowd is facing a legal challenge over his intention to shut both Newtownbreda and Knockbreda High Schools.

Both are set to close so that one new school can be created in the area.

The future amalgamation was announced in January after viability assessments were carried out.

Falling enrolment numbers formed part of the basis for concluding a change was required.

A principal for the planned new school is due to be appointed next month ahead of the planned opening next year.

But the parents of pupils at Newtownbreda High want the plans quashed, claiming their children’s education will suffer.

Their lawyers claim Mr O’Dowd took the decision without proper reasoning and consultation.

The proper course of action would have been to just close Knockbreda and integrate its pupils into Newtownbreda, the court heard.

The judge was told how school inspectors have given an improved rating to Newtownbreda High, up from satisfactory to good.

Opening the application for judicial review, David McMillen QC said it has shown remarkable progress due to strong leadership and motivated, skilled teachers.

“The minister’s decision to close both schools was based on the unfortunate position that Knockbreda found itself in,” he claimed.

“While it has shown some modest improvement, parents and pupils were voting with their feet.”

The hearing, listed for two days, continues.