Concerns are voiced over special school merger proposals


Concern has been voiced over moves which would spell the merger of a string of special schools in Belfast.

The news emerged as the result of briefings given by the Education Authority to headteachers late last week.

The authority yesterday confirmed to the News Letter that plans are under consideration for Greenwood House Assessment Centre, Mitchell House School and Park Education and Resource Centre (all in east Belfast) to be closed in August 2019, and a new school created in their place.

Fleming Fulton and Glenveagh schools (both next to one another in south Belfast) would be discontinued at the same time, with a view to establishing a single school on the same site.

Harberton school and Oakwood school (both in south Belfast) would also be replaced by a single site within the same timeframe.

The news of the plans became public thanks to a BBC report yesterday morning.

In addition to these plans confirmed by the Education Authority, the BBC also reported that St Gerard’s school would remain open in its present location, whilst Clarawood and Cedar Lodge schools would remain unaffected.

Gerry Carroll, People Before Profit MLA for West Belfast, said he has been contacted by parents “who are quite rightly aghast”.

He added: “This appears to be another cost cutting exercise by the EA, where saving money takes precedent over the education of our young people.”

The Education Authority said the briefings with headteachers were part of a “pre-consultation” exercise.

It is thought a full consultation is needed before any changes go ahead.

It said in a statement that its plans are “the beginning of a programme of transformation”.

It added: “For children with special educational needs, we are committed to ensuring that children can attend a special school that meets their individual needs, close to where they live.”