‘SF ideology is closing prep schools at cost to taxpayer’

MLA Peter Weir
MLA Peter Weir

The likely closure of a Bangor prep school is the inevitable outworking of Sinn Fein’s ideological decision to starve such institutions of public funds, it has been claimed.

The Education Authority has published a proposal to “discontinue education” at Cygnet House, a preparatory [prep] department of Glenlola Collegiate in Bangor, with effect from August 31 2016 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Glenlola Collegiate principal Eric Thompson said the class sizes of the preparatory department in the school ensured teachers and children know each other really well. It is one of the great strengths of Cygnet House which always translated into excellent results in Key Stage 3 and in transfer tests, he said.

Five years ago the prep department of Bangor Grammar School closed, and this caused anxiety for the parents of Cygnet House. “Many felt torn at that time and although the majority decided to stay, a number decided that, given the uncertainty, they would find places for their children in larger primary schools. Since that time the Board of Governors has worked tirelessly with a group of highly committed and supportive parents to build up the enrolment of the school and had until recently done this with some success.

“However, with a large P7 group leaving at the end of June and a smaller P1 group due to join us in September, concerns regarding pupil numbers resulted in a number of parents once again moving to larger primary schools in the area. This in turn intensified the anxieties of those parents who remained and in a very short space of time the number of pupils had fallen to a level which brought the school’s sustainability into question.”

DUP education spokesman Peter Weir said it is very disappointing to see the closure of Cygnet House, which has been “clearly brought by the conditions around prep school funding created by Sinn Fein ministers a number of years ago. The announcement is a clear outworking of those decisions, which we warned about at the time.”

The reduction and later removal of funding for places has strongly disadvantaged the taxpayer, he said; instead of a prep pupil being funded with 20 or 30 per cent from public funds – with the rest paid for by their parents – these closures will lead to 100 per cent being paid for through the departmental budget. “Rather than save much needed money for the education system, these changes have simply drained further resources, and it shows the misguided approach and pursuit of an ideological agenda.”