I was Principal of Enniskillen Collegiate in the early 1990s when last the WELB published a development proposal to merge Portora and the Collegiate. This was rejected by the Department of Education at the time.
In reflecting on the current proposal approved by DE and the total and sustained opposition to it from the Collegiate and its friends, I have been struck by the following.
“A substantial number of comments received by the Department of Education during the consultation period were resolutely opposed to the proposal. This level of opposition did not augur well for the success of a new coeducational school.”
I agree with this conclusion but none of the words in that paragraph are mine. They were written by the Department of Education itself in 1992 to explain part of its reason for turning down the WELB proposal!
Is the level of opposition any less now or the issue any less divisive? All the local evidence would certainly suggest not.
The current proposal envisages a two site arrangement for an unstated number of years. That was also proposed in the 1990s. The Collegiate sees such an operation as bringing with it all sorts of timetabling and logistical problems exacerbated by the nature of Enniskillen as an island town. It might well also create delicate issues related to staff morale nor would it be likely to be an inducement for the retention and recruitment of teachers.
Whether all these difficulties could be surmounted is an open question. In effect therefore it would be to a degree experimental. The guinea pigs in such an experiment would be the pupils and their education.
Let me quote the Department of Education again. “There would be considerable disruption and logistical difficulties associated with the interim proposal for a split site grammar school pending the amalgamation on a single site. This would have created very significant organisational problems for several years and could have placed educational standards at risk.”
This was one of the reasons the Department itself listed for rejecting the proposal in 1992. Is it any less relevant now?
We were led to believe in the 1990s that our viability as separate institutions was in doubt and our only hope for a guaranteed future lay in a merger. The Department rejected that viability argument also. Those predictions of potential doom were made over 20 years ago but strangely enough neither school has collapsed in the ensuing years. Somewhat similar forecasts that a merger would be our best hope seem to have been aired again. Are they likely to be any more reliable this time? The Collegiate pupils and parents have certainly made it very clear they do not see the school as being in imminent terminal decline. Neither do I.
Collegiate Principal 1976-1997