COOKSTOWN SHORT OF 500 SCHOOL DESKS SAYS FORUM

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A COOKSTOWN educational group has slammed proposals for the future of catholic schools in the area.

The Cookstown Forum for Education said it is deeply concerned that the Northern Ireland Catholic Commission for Education proposals are based on a process that was “secretive, imbalanced and deeply-flawed”.

They also claim the proposals themselves are very damaging for Catholic pupils, families, and communities in the wider Cookstown area, both now and particularly in the future.

The strong words of condemnation come as local primary principles detail their criticism of the recent publication.

One recommendation in the report is that a co-educational school for 11 to 19-year-olds remains in the Cookstown area but that more analysis is carried out regarding any further expansion of Holy Trinity College.

The consultation process, launched in 2010, gathered the views of 28,000 people.

Sean Mallon, Chair of Cookstown Forum for Education, said Holy Trinity College had led a planning and consultation process during the past three years, which showed the need for a further 500 places at the school.

He said: “For years, several hundred local children have had to be bussed out from here to schools elsewhere, often adding over an hour to their school day.”

“Our local population is projected to grow by a fifth over the next ten years so our local need for local school places is going to increase even more” Sean continued.”

Mr Mallon went on to claim the proposals effectively mean pupils from Cookstown would be used to “prop up” schools elsewhere.

“Holy Trinity’s work has proved the need for a new 1,300 co-educational all-ability College in Cookstown,” he said.”If stated government and Catholic educational policy is to mean anything, then that new College should be a priority project.

“Holy Trinity College is a dynamic, growing and above all successful school, producing outstanding academic; sporting; and personal development results.

“The Cookstown Forum for Education intends to do whatever is needed to secure ‘educational justice’ for Cookstown/Mid-Ulster. That means a new 1,300 pupil Holy Trinity College.”

Cardinal Brady, speaking ahead of the report’s launch last month said: “It reflects a huge level of commitment to ensuring the continued provision of high quality Catholic education across Northern Ireland and within local communities.”