Top teacher voices concern at using school facilities during holidays

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Schools should not be forced to open in summer to cater for sporting or creative children’s clubs, a top Portadown teacher has warned.

Susan Thompson, currently President of the Ulster Teachers Union, said using school premises in the summer will expose the ‘shocking’ lack of resources in the education sector.

Ms Thompson, who is on sabbatical from Hart Memorial PS as she takes on the presidency role, was responding to claims that school facilities could be forced to open over summer to help address childhood obesity and crime.

“While addressing obesity and crime is important this approach poses many questions. Every week it seems we’re hearing of schools cutting back on spending on creative arts and sports so for a start it’s doubtful how suitable school facilities will be to host such events over summer.”

Susan, who is a former pupil of Hart Memorial as well as Killicomaine JHS and Craigavon SHS, said: “In terms of using sporting facilities we would suggest that resources might be better spent addressing the lack of engagement in PE by a significant number of, especially girls, during the other 10 months of the year. Why, if they’re not interested in PE at school will the same young people want to spend their holidays in similar activities?

“So as a way to tackle childhood obesity, as has been suggested, this idea seems flawed. Let’s prioritise the term-time classes and address the shocking lack of funding there before resources are pumped into summer schools.

“On a very practical level other questions would also need to be addressed, such as how well school sports facilities are managed currently and are there appropriate systems in place to protect both the school and their community users?

“Are appropriate safeguards in place relating to insurance and health and safety issues? Is there appropriate financial planning and perhaps most importantly, will schools have to foot repairs and renewal costs?

“If the scheme did work it could address children’s inactivity over summer, while giving them structured time and could perhaps cut-down on anti-social behaviour – not to mention relieve parents of the summer child-minding headache.”