WELB defends post-primary reform plans

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The Western Education and Library Board (WELB) wishes to provide clarity on recent comments appearing in the Press regarding post-primary education in Co Fermanagh.

l The WELB is concerned at the reference in the media in respect of Devenish College having ‘failed’ in some way. The WELB refutes this statement and would emphasise that the overall findings of the most recent Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) report for Devenish College clearly indicate that its strengths outweigh any areas for improvement. These include: the improving trend in the attainments of the pupils in public examinations; the good pastoral support provided for the pupils; its collaborative arrangements and effective links within the Fermanagh learning community; and the hard work and commitment of the principal and senior management team to the care and welfare of pupils.

l The board’s Strategic Area Plan for Post Primary Education, considers Devenish College to be a critical element necessary, in terms of educational provision in Co Fermanagh, to ensure that it meets the needs of all pupils in the controlled/voluntary non-denominational sectors in the area. The WELB wholly supports the board of governors (BoG) and staff of Devenish College and acknowledges their dedication and commitment to meeting the educational needs of their pupils, whilst patiently awaiting approval for a new build school.

l The new interim board of governors (IBOG) for the proposed new grammar school will be the decision-maker for the school, not the WELB. It will be made up of 50 per cent representatives from each of the present BoGs of both schools, which are currently selective schools. It will, therefore, be the responsibility of the IBOG to draw up the admissions policy, in accordance with Article 16 of the Education (NI) Order 1997.

l The WELB is concerned at the comment that: ‘67 pupils last year went outside the controlled secondary sector in Fermanagh ie chose to go elsewhere other than Devenish’. The absence of any clarification and indication of the destinations of the ‘67’ pupils has potential to give readers the wrong perception as to why parents/guardians have chosen certain post-primary schools.

In many of these cases, pupils are attending their nearest controlled post-primary school, which also makes them eligible for Home to School Transport, whilst others have transferred from all-faith primary schools to maintained or integrated post-primary schools.

l The claim that ‘Collegiate Grammar School is repeatedly oversubscribed and has a cap on numbers’ has, again, the potential to mislead readers. Over-subscription is characteristic of the majority of grammar schools throughout the Province, and is a feature of all four grammar schools in Enniskillen. WELB records indicate that, in the context of all four grammar schools in Enniskillen, only once in the past five years was Collegiate Grammar School the highest over-subscribed school on first preference applications.

l Articles 11 and 12 of the Education (NI) Order 1997 require the Department of Education (DE) to determine an enrolment number and an admissions number, respectively, for each grant-aided primary and post primary school.

The proposed enrolment and admissions numbers for Devenish College and the new grammar school recognise the projected long term enrolment figures. As outlined in the legislation, both the enrolment and admission numbers for all schools are determined by the department.